Jon Jones started training for MMA in 2007. He had only been a pro for four months before jumping into The Octagon. He then went on to defeat Shogun Rua on short notice, delivering a beating so severe that Shogun tapped from strikes. Not only has he consecutively defeated an unrivaled murderer's row of former champions (Rua, Rampage, Machida, Evans) in a division where the belt is known to be passed around like a hot potato, but he has done so while fighting on a more frequent schedule than most, if not all, of the UFC's other champions. This is the Jon Jones we're calling a coward? How soon we forget, but of course that's easy to do when drinking the UFC's Kool Aid. If Jon Jones is a coward, end of story, I've got news for you: There's a sequel to that story and you're not going to like it.
Congratulations Dana White. That was the most masterful example of deflection since former 76ers coach Larry Brown got the public to direct their ire at star player Allen Iverson. For those that don't remember, the 76ers had been bounced from the first round of the NBA playoffs after having gone to the finals the previous year. This raised serious questions about the coaching of Larry Brown. When it came time to appear before the media, Brown slammed his star player for failing to appear on time for practice sessions. This wasn't exactly out of the norm for A.I., but Brown knew what he was doing by bringing it up at that particular time. Much like UFC star Jon Jones, Iverson was a polarizing figure to say the least. Like Jones, he was also known for saying things that fans would over analyze, dissect, and criticize him for. The media ran back to A.I. with the practice criticism. Feeling indignant that he was being put on blast, considering he was just about the only member of the team that put in a decent performance during the series, A.I. attempted to articulate his outrage. What followed was the now infamous "Pactice?!?" rant. Just like that everyone was talking about A.I.. Everyone. It didn't matter if you were vilifying him for being a spoiled baby, or defending him as someone making a good point that was misunderstood. Lost in that conversation was Larry Brown's failure as a coach.
Fast forward to today. The UFC is putting on too many shows to maintain the same quality as cards from just a few years prior. Some cards are downright abysmal. Yet, we the fans are being charged the same prices. Despite grumbling complaints, Dana White insists that the UFC is not stretching itself then. He refuses to acknowledge how the quality of PPV cards has suffered. Fortunately for him, he has found MMA's Michael Jordan in Jon Jones. He can use that star power to sell fight cards as full priced PPVs that he would otherwise not be able to promote as such. He is getting one over on the loyal, paying, fans. Like MMA? Want to see the biggest star in MMA? Fine, fork over $45-$55 for one fight and here's a card that wouldn't even make FX to go with it.
When Dan Henderson went down, White was forced to confront a truth. UFC 151 was a garbage card. Not only did he need a main event, he needed a star like Jones to salvage such a mess. He needed Jones to bail him out of the mess he created. No problem. Dana was used to getting his way. Telling him "no" was never an option. When he asked for a favor it was really just his polite way of giving an order. Dana underestimated Jones' star power and his ability to use it to insulate himself from Dana's bully tactics. So Dana cancels the card, holds a conference, blames Jones, and the rest is history.
It's okay to think that Jones had more to lose than he did to gain by going the route that he did. It's okay to think that he, in fact, made the wrong move for his brand going forward. It's wrong to act as if he didn't have a right to make that choice. It's wrong to act as if one choice makes him a better person than the other choice. It's wrong to follow in the irrational and unprofessional footsteps of Dana White and write an article declaring Jones to be a coward. I like posting and reading on MMA sites, debating, enjoying the MMA community, but it is times like this that make you embarrassed to say you are a fan. It is times like this that prove the naysayers right when they accuse us of just wanting to see a human cock fight. This is not a street fight. You do not approach it like one. If Chael Sonnen slapped Jon Jones in the face on the street, and Jones did absolutely nothing about it, you may have a case for him being afraid of Sonnen. When it comes to MMA, though it is a pastime to us, it is a career to Jon Jones who is trying to build himself as a brand. As a family man, he has a moral responsibility to provide for as many future generations of the Jones clan as he can. He is working hard and honestly to make that happen. He got into fighting to provide for his family, not to provide for fighters who can't draw on their own power, because Dana uses them as a bargaining ploy. Staying true to that is no less moral than agreeing to Dana's demands.
Jon Jones was told to take a change of opponent in a scenario in which he would only have three days to train for his new opponent, and his coaches wouldn't be there to help him. Greg Jackson said it was a bad look, and he was right to do so. Dan Henderson suffered that injury three weeks ago. He has been training with friend Chael Sonnen for the Jones fight. Coincidentally, Chael started beefing with Jones a week ago. I don't think it's above suspicion that two guys with questionable histories of TRT use would cook up a scenario where one is training for the champ while starting a beef with him, angling for a shot in case the injured one is unable to go. I don't think it's above suspicion to question whether Dan knew weeks ago that he wouldn't be able to compete, but wanted to give Chael as much of an advantage as possible by allowing him to secretly train for Jones, while dropping the bombshell on Jones at a time in which he wouldn't be able to properly prepare for Chael. That may not be true, but a guy that has been around the block, like Jackson, has to think of such possibilities when his fighter comes to him with a situation like that. I would say the same thing: It's not a good look. For all they know it's a setup.
The irony of this story hasn't escaped me. Jones is being blasted for being humble. Sure, in all likelihood he could walk to the cage expecting Hendo, find Chael in his place, and still kick the living crap out of Chael to retain his belt. I know that. You know that. Jones knows it. Jackson knows it. Even Chael knows it. The problem is it's bad ORM (operational risk management) for Jones to take that fight. The potential risk outweighs the potential benefit, even if the potential benefit is the more likely scenario that will play out. I think some people have been kidding themselves when it comes to this.
If Jones went in and won he wouldn't get much credit for beating a guy coming off of a loss whom was just a MW. Critics cry about his unfair physical advantages now. Imagine if he beat up on a short notice MW coming off of a loss. On top of that Jones has set the bar high for himself with his previous opponents. He's not going to get much credit there. He also wouldn't get much credit from Dana. As I said before, to Dana it's not really a favor. It's you doing what he said. What little goodwill Jones would get from taking that fight could be easily washed away. Look how easily it has been forgotten that Jones has headlined for the UFC, against quality competition, on a frequent basis, at a time when they are without their two top draws. If Dana can so casually throw Jones under the bus after all of that, goodwill from fighting Chael is worth about as much as a Saddam Hussein Iraqi dinar.
Had Jones taken the fight and lost, standby. If you thought he got mocked for that DUI, you haven't seen anything. The haters would come out like cockroaches. There would be little to no talk of flukes, or Jones losing after doing the right thing and taking the fight short notice. It would be nothing but the 24/7 trashing of his image and brand, because a guy that just lost at MW came up to LHW on short notice and took his belt like candy from a child. This on the heels of just signing a Nike deal. He would never live down that moment, not even with a rematch which could easily be derailed by the UFC injury bug. Anthony Pettis did the "right thing" by not sitting around, after being promised a title shot. He took a fight, and got humped to a decision. He's still waiting for that shot.
Jones did what a professional fighter should do, not what a person that has just been insulted on the street would do. He respected his opponent, no matter how big an underdog. Any opponent getting into that Octagon is a world class talent that knows what they are doing. All of them are good enough to have a fighting chance. When you lose your humility, start disrespecting that fact, you are asking to lose a fight you should have won. It's bad practice. It's a bad habit for a champion to take on. He may have gotten away with it had he fought Chael, but you saw how entitled Dana was at that conference. Jones wasn't supposed to tell him "no," because not many other people have. Not many other people could. Not Chuck or any of those other past fighters who would have answered the call, or paid the price for not doing so. The minute Jones would have bowed to Dana he would have set a precedent that Dana would hold him to in the future. He would have set a precedent of not respecting the game of his opponent, and eventually it would have caught up to him.
As far as canceling the event, that is on Dana White. Dana is the promoter that put together a weak card that couldn't stand without Jones. God forbid Jones had been the one to get injured. What would he have done? This card was canceled because it was too weak to stand up without some serious star power in the main event. Jon Jones is not responsible for the event getting canceled because Dana (If we are to believe Dana when he says he knew the fight hinged upon him) put a gun to his head and held it hostage to get his way. The person responsible for the fate of 151 is, and always has been, Dana White. I truly believe that not only was he responsible, but he became so frustrated at Jones telling him "no" that he gave up and canceled the card without doing everything he could to save it. He got mad and made an impulse decision. At the press conference to announce the cancellation, he hadn't yet thought through how the numbering of future PPVs would be handled. He hadn't even thought about it until questioned by a reporter. He made a big stink about how Jones will fight Machida, not even realizing that Machida didn't want the fight at 152. Weidman had to call them and offer to save the fight card. Anderson Silva had to contact them about saving the fight card. If Dana had exhausted all of his options to save that card, wouldn't putting out feelers to your top stars in hopes that some of them would bite be one of those options? Why is it the talent is having to contact him? This doesn't strike me as a man who is on top of what's going on, or that has tried everything he could to save an event. This seems like a man throwing a childish fit because someone told him "no," then laying the blame for his actions on that individual. The fact is, had Dana spent less time preparing his character assassination speech, on Jones and Jackson, and more time putting out feelers to his top stars, we would still have a UFC 151.
No one should be blaming Jones for fighters not getting paid. Charlie Brenneman should be asking the rich promoters who put together a weak card, then canceled it, to send him a check. They can afford it. Neither Charlie nor anyone else on a card Jones has headlined has made noise about how thankful they are to Jones for allowing them to ride his coattails and earn a check. They shouldn't, but they also shouldn't blame him for this card being canceled by the promoter. As it happens, Charlie's fight was rescheduled for 152, which Jones will be headlining. If I were Jones, I wouldn't sit around waiting for the "I got a job because I got to be on a Jon Jones card" check to come in the mail. Jones could easily be like any other champ and fight a less frequent schedule. He could have sat back and chilled for lengthy periods between title defenses and no one would be accusing him of being selfish and costing guys jobs, right now. Charlie Brenneman got into MMA around the same time as Jones. He has to take some responsibility on himself if a card he is on is too weak to be promoted. It's easy to blame everyone's favorite villains: Jones and Jackson. It's much harder to look in the mirror and admit that a UFC run of decision victories whenever you aren't being finished is the reason you find yourself relying on another man to earn the PPV buys that you should be.
I've gone on for long enough, but I want to end this post by reminding you of what we should be focused on: We were right about Dana trying to get over on us with weak cards, and this proves it. Any other nonsensical talk is only a distraction from that point, and to anyone promoting such, Dana thanks you for drinking the Kool Aid.