Sept. 1, 2012, was meant to be the day one of the legends mixed martial arts (MMA) became a sacrificial offering to a formidable technician, one who has taken the sport by storm. There was no passing of the torch, as the young man had already taken the torch from the "old guard" (Mauricio Rua, Quinton Jackson and Lyoto Machida).
Throughout his dominant reign, this young man was the subject of many an online warrior's ruthlessly deprecating remarks inspired by his utter lack of humility, as well as his irresponsible, drunken excursion earlier this year. That man, Jon Jones, having gone through every trial thrown at him and passing with flying colors, may be one of the greatest fighters to ever walk this planet.
At least, in the cage.
He has done, and still does, his very best to say the right things in the public eye, so as not to disturb his already broken public image. For whatever reason, everything this man says, every word that escapes his mouth, or is typed into social media, becomes front page news. He has been incessantly picked apart, by fans and media alike, for being someone they just can't stand. Leading up to UFC 151, he was preparing for a fight he was heavily favored in, and for once the world wasn't too mad at him.
When Dan Henderson was hurt three weeks out from his scheduled fight with Jones at UFC 151, not too many people knew. Then, at daybreak on Aug. 23, 2012, whispers were heard regarding his title destroying injury. These whispers grew into full-fledged rumors, sweeping through the MMA community, even at that untimely hour.
Then, it was announced: Dan Henderson was out of UFC 151.
The shockwave that followed was felt by all walks of MMA fandom. Casual fans were even asking me what was going to happen with the big Jon Jones fight. At the time, Zuffa officials could've told you everything was fine, but nobody would've expected what followed.
Rumors flourished, fights were suggested, and fans were generally in a frenzy. Meanwhile, a certain snarky wrestler was in a dormant state, as far as fight promotion, and was also completely unaware of the ongoing situation. Tweets were made, words were said, queue Chael Sonnen. "The American Gangster" himself had gotten 'the call' from Dana White, asking him to step-in for his injured teammate. Being a man of opportunity, he accepted--no questions asked.
But then came the moment to offer the fight to Jones. This was a fight he was expected to dominate; he'd be facing a stylistically disadvantaged opponent, who happened to be coming off an embarrassing loss to another one of the world's best.
Astonishingly, Jones turned down the fight.
What ensued thereafter, were some of the most castigating words ever thrown at this young man throughout his career. Beyond that, we also got some unheard of news: with no other viable options to adequately fill the card or compensate for the lack of a suitable main event, UFC 151 was cancelled.
Jones was given the harshest of words, not from the fans, but from a man who was supposed to promote him. Dana White, in his usual truculent way, went on to spew vitriol towards his champ. This expletive-laden rant was broadcast over live audio streams for all to hear. He was angry only at Jones, blaming him, and he alone, for this entire mess.
Of course, many fans immediately followed the loudest voice, Dana White's. The blame was thrust entirely upon the back of Jones. For a fight promoter, it was incredibly stupid to focus all of this loathing onto a man who was supposed to be one of his biggest stars; a man who was already struggling to keep his public image from being disparaged.
News broke that "Bones" would be fighting twenty-one days later against former Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida. Later, it was revealed that one-half of that equation knew nothing of this development. Machida did not accept the offer. This left fans with even more questions.
Eventually it was announced that Jones would defend his light heavyweight championship at UFC 152 against Vitor Belfort, a man who had recently been fighting as a middleweight. The fight itself made little sense, Vitor clearly wasn't in any position to be challenging Jones, but at least it was something. That fight was now topping off an already decent card, leaving fight fans with a highly desirable product in front of them.
As fans and media were calming down, Jones added more fuel to the fire, with ill-advised tweets and public statements, reviving the hatred that had dissipated. In fact, we're still seeing remnants of this mess as this article is being written. At this point, everyone has picked a side, and for the most part it's a choice of either loving or hating Jon Jones.
In my own perspective, I don't really know who to side with. Each party involved would be willing to weasel their way out of sharing the blame-pie with whatever methods they could utilize. At this point, I just want this to go away.
With UFC 152, Jones can actually allow his fighting ability to be what speaks for him for a change; then maybe everyone will remember just how talented this man is, despite putting his own foot in his mouth so often.
After all, fighting isn't about words.