By now we're all well aware that UFC 151 Jones vs. Henderson has been cancelled. We've read many posts, had conversations and possibly heated debates with other MMA fans, listened to interviews from Dana White, Greg Jackson, and others, and somehow even Chael Sonnen found a way to play a central role in this whole ordeal, despite last fighting in the Light Heavyweight division over five years ago. Even more recently there has been an apology statement issued by the current Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
I find myself generally content with the articles that I've read from both MMA writers and fans that convey such varied viewpoints of which many contained well thought out, constructive, and meaningful points. Naturally there have been many inflammatory comments, but that tends to come with the territory on internet forums.
I wanted to address one topic/theme in particular that I've seen in some articles which is the idea that when Jones made his decision not to fight Sonnen at UFC 151 it helped to maintain the integrity of the sport of MMA. To this I would like to respectfully submit my disagreement, and here's why:
I think there are several things that most individuals would agree with regarding this whole situation: Dan Henderson had to pull out of his fight at UFC 151 with Jones due to injury, Jones decided under the advisement of his coaching staff to turn down a replacement fight with Chael Sonnen, the UFC chose to cancel it's Labor Day weekend event, and Jones issued an apology regarding the way all of this was handled - not necessarily apologizing for turning down the fight with Sonnen. I don't believe there's much disagreement in the MMA community regarding those parts of the story.
A thought or two to consider regarding the integrity of the sport of MMA: I do not believe in any way, shape, or form that Jones was thinking about the sport as a whole when he made his decision to turn down the Sonnen fight. Jones was protecting his own legacy and nothing more. I also do not believe that his decision inadvertently accomplished anything for the integrity of the sport.
Was Jones' choice an intelligent decision if his number one goal is to retain the belt at all costs, including sacrificing a portion of his current popularity? Yes. Was this a decision that will resonate and be supported by all MMA fans? Absolutely not. This has been evident from the flood of internet activity regarding this topic, which eventually led to the apology statements that have been issued by the champion. Jones is without a doubt a talented fighter, but it seems that he has potentially bought into his own hype and legacy as of late, and is following suit with a conservative approach to how he handles his contractual dealings.
With regards to the integrity of the sport of MMA it can be difficult at times to discuss this subject when it comes to a variety of topics such as: determining number one contenders, TRT or PED concerns, and the acceptability of turning down fights due to a variety of reasons such as: an opponent's perceived lack of PPV draw, not being 100% healthy, or many of the other reasons that have arisen in recent years.
Take number one contenders for example, this topic could support the argument that even offering Sonnen a shot at the Light Heavyweight championship in the first place with Jones was illegitimate or undeserved. Unfortunately there is no unified or endorsed ranking system in MMA. If there was one like what is utilized in NASCAR where there is a more objective point-based ranking system, then we could constantly have legitimate number one contenders as well as a more defined lineup of replacements for when injuries inevitably occur. This type of system would reduce more of the gray area when it comes to chasing after any of the current championships.
This concept doesn't address the obstacle of contract negotiations, if power continues to lie with the fighters regarding whether or not they agree to the terms of a fight, then the organizations they fight for need to dangle moneybags in front of them to entice them into the cage when a fighter decides to decline a match-up. Is this a big deal? Maybe, maybe not. If desired, the UFC could put stipulations into the contracts that they would strip the champion of their title if certain obligations failed to be met.
All of that aside, Jones is a great fighter, one that has developed a large fan base in recent years and he will move on and hopefully learn from this situation. Do I think Jones could be booed during his next entrance at an event? Yes. Will he truly become a heel in the sport? Time will tell, but I don't believe he has to become the next bad guy, after all there's no fate but what we make for ourselves.
In closing, something this whole ordeal brought to us all, is a reason to sign-on to our forums of choice and flood them with our thoughts on the issue. What I think is great about the whole situation revolving around the cancellation of UFC 151 is that we're talking passionately about MMA again! I for one had found myself a little disinterested as of late for reasons that I couldn't quite figure out. Regardless, maybe this type of shake up is the thing that some of us needed to get reinvigorated about MMA. While I didn't agree with his decision to turn down the fight with Chael, thank you Jon Jones for bringing a little more passion and fire back to MMA fans, and maybe just maybe it's time to start thinking about a unified ranking system for MMA fighters.