Earlier in the week we made the point that Jon Jones was developing a painfully corporate attitude. That point couldn’t have been more evident than when Jones turned down a fight with Chael Sonnen on Thursday, leading to the cancellation of the entire UFC 151 fight card.
Jones was set to defend his UFC light heavyweight title against Dan Henderson on Sept. 1 in Las Vegas, but Hendo pulled out with a knee injury. Sonnen, who had been baiting Jones on Twitter, was asked by the UFC to step in on short notice and fight Jones. He accepted, but Jones turned down the replacement fight feeling that he wouldn’t have enough time to properly prepare.
Jones apparently forgot that Sonnen was going to be fighting less than two months after losing to Anderson Silva, and that Sonnen was going to be at a disadvantage having to move up to 205 from 185 pounds.
Jones, being so protective of his status as a champion, was too worried about his legacy to risk his belt on short notice. Without the event headliner Jones willing to face someone else, UFC president Dana White decided to cancel the entire card in a move he termed an “all-time low.”
“This is one of those selfish, disgusting decisions that doesn’t just affect you,” White said. “You just affected other peoples’ lives. I don’t think this is a decision that is going to make Jon Jones popular with the fans, sponsors, cable distributors, television network executives or other fighters.”
White blamed Jones’ trainer, Greg Jackson, who advised his student not to take the fight, for playing a negative role in the process.
“(Jackson) is an (expletive) sport-killer,” White said. “Greg Jackson should not be interviewed by anyone else except a psychiatrist.”
After getting ripped to shreds by White, Jackson responded during an interview on “The MMA Show.”
“I was asked if it was smart to take a fight on three days notice and I don’t think it’s smart to do that,” Jackson said on The MMA Show, according to Bloody Elbow. “Three days to fight a guy that caliber is not a smart thing to do. I’m not trying to ruin the sport or cancel an event. I don’t know about that stuff, but thought it wasn’t a wise course of action.”
In an interview with MMA Junkie, Jones explained his position and decision to decline the fight.
“I signed a contract a long time ago to fight Dan Henderson. That’s what I studied for, and that’s what I prepared myself for. To take a fight with a different opponent in which I would basically have three days of training before traveling and then starting to cut weight I just thought would be the dumbest idea ever. I wouldn’t have been properly prepared.”
He also apologized to those who were affected by his decision, though he is not apologetic for his decision.
“I definitely apologize to the other fighters on the card,” Jones told MMA Junkie. “I feel terrible, but it also wasn’t my decision to cancel the whole card. I don’t make those decisions.
“I apologize to the people that lost money on tickets and travel and things like that,” Jones said. “I don’t apologize for my decision, but I do apologize for the way it affected people. I hope people can understand I was just trying to do the best thing for my career.
“I take a lot of pride in the way I perform, and I want to put on the best performance possible every time I fight. I don’t want to go out there just to win the fight. I want to go out there to dominate. I want to make it look effortless. I want it to be a beautiful thing.”
While I understand Jones’ position and why he declined the fight, I think it was the wrong move. Jones wouldn’t have the opportunity to fight or make such a wonderful living in MMA if it weren’t for the UFC. He should recognize that their relationship is mutual, so he should consider the company’s interest when making decisions. Also, Sonnen would have been even more unprepared for the fight, so you can’t argue that Jones would have been at a disadvantage.
Bloody Elbow dug up a noteworthy tweet Jon Jones sent in May 2010:
My, how things have changed.
Dana White said on his conference call that you’re either a fighter or you’re not. The problem is that Jones is no longer a fighter; he’s now a businessman. And that attitude is causing him to make some bad decisions.
The entire audio of a ticked-off Dana White addressing the media on a conference call was pretty entertaining. You can listen to it below: