Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was all set to blow the roof off the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, tonight (Sat., Sept. 1, 2012) with its UFC 151: "Jones vs. Henderson" event headlined by Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones defending his title against Dan Henderson.
That was until about nine days ago when word trickled out that "Hendo" injured his knee and would be pulling out of the fight. This triggered a chain of events that have changed the way mixed martial arts (MMA) fans feel about the biggest fight promotion in the world.
Jones, already a polarizing figure, turned down a short notice replacement bout against Chael Sonnen, presumably after being told by an angry UFC President Dana White that if he did so, the entire event would be cancelled just over one week before it was scheduled to occur.
Still, Jones said no and MMA fans had their Labor Day weekend freed up from any major show.
The fallout has been nasty. White and the UFC embarked on what was, essentially, a smear campaign, burying "Bones" at every turn. They issued press releases with quotes like, "UFC 151 will always be the event remembered as the one Jon Jones and Greg Jackson MURDERED."
It wasn't just White and the UFC, though; Jones' fellow fighters were piling on, blasting him for the fact that some of them who were scheduled to compete on the preliminary card were going to be missing out on sorely needed paychecks. These aren't superstar athletes who can afford $190,000 Bentleys, they need this cash to feed their families.
So they lashed out, calling out the 205-pound champion for his selfish attitude.
Now, according to a report from ESPN's MMA Live, Jones had every intention of paying the salaries of each guy who missed out thanks to his decision ... until the Twitter trash talk started.
"A source from very close to him said Jon Jones was willing to pay the fighters, he felt so bad about the card being cancelled, he was willing to pay the fighters on that card their fees. But after all these attacks on him by other fighters, he chose not to do that. He feels really bad about this situation and did not expect the entire card to be cancelled."
Considering all that's happened, this could very well be a minor form of damage control, though it comes much too late in the process to do any good. Or perhaps the Jones camp simply wanted it known that he was willing to take care of his colleagues.
If they hadn't turned their back on him.
The reality is it's a complicated situation. MMA is a lonely sport when all is said and done and it's difficult to fault a man for looking out for number one. After all, it's not as though any of these men who were complaining were going to be inside the cage with Jones on fight night, helping him achieve victory.
Still, publicity is almost as important as actual performance and Jones continues to get beaten up in the media. We'll see if this serves to turn the tide or make him an even bigger target.
What do you think?