ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 21: Jon Jones celebrates defeating Rashad Evans by unanimous decision in their light heavyweight title bout for UFC 145 at Philips Arena on April 21, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Did you hear the one about the cancelled Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event?
The promotion canceled its first-ever event in its history, which was supposed to go down this past weekend (Sept. 1, 2012) in Las Vegas, Nevada in the form of UFC 151. The card was to be headlined by UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones defending his title against the heavy-handed veteran, Dan Henderson.
One injury to "Hendo" later, followed by a declined last-minute replacement fight from Jones to take on Chael Sonnen, and the event was scrapped altogether, leaving fans disappointed and the UFC's head honchos furious.
In the wake of all the fallout, one of the, if not the biggest star on the promotion's roster at that moment, Jones, took a major blow in his popularity, image, favor with ZUFFA -- whatever you want to label it -- for not accepting the bout with Sonnen.
For the most part, "Bones" has kept quiet, taking to his Twitter account from time-to-time to address the drama surrounding the recent events. To no surprise, many were still not satisfied, wanting to hear from the man himself, wanting to either see him or hear his voice, giving his side of the story.
Now, the 205-pound kingpin opens up, for the first time, about all the events leading up to the promotion's fateful decision to cancel UFC 151, and the aftermath that ensued.
After the jump, see some of the highlights of what Jones had to tell MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani via The MMA (After) Hour:
"No, I don't regret my decision at all; I actually think it was a really smart, personal career decision. I think now is probably a better time talk about it, now that people's emotions are a little bit out of the way and people can use their logic and think here and really dissect the situation and what really happened."
On his reason(s) on why he declined the bout with Sonnen:
"The main reason, well there is a few main reasons why I decided not to fight Chael Sonnen, and the reasons are, you know, first reason is I talked to my coaches about it right away. I got my boxing coach together with my Muay Thai coach, I brought my wrestling coach and I brought my jiu-jitsu coach and who is also Greg Jackson, my strategist and jiu-jitsu coach. So, here I am, I'm with my staff of coaches, in and out, they know my weaknesses, they know my strengths, they know how I've prepared my muscles to react. And each coach said to me right away, 'No doubt, we can win this fight.' They honestly believed I could win the fight, but, they also said, I want you to be aware of the fact that you prepared for a complete opposite style to Dan Henderson. Henderson is a fighter that uses his overhand right, he uses his straight right, his right uppercut, he crosses over to his right a little bit. He shoots, he has this certain type of clinch game that he does. He's a good scrambler, he doesn't really pressure into you, anyways, I'm not going to get into all the details about the fight because it probably sounds taboo to people who don't really understated fighting deeply. To sum it up, Chael Sonnen is a southpaw, he has completely different pressure, different take downs, his head is on the opposite side, his ground and pound is different, he's subset able different submissions. Just a completely different warrior, completely different warrior. So that was the main factor, reason why I didn't to take the fight on last minute notice. I don't think people realize, just because your a UFC fighter, doesn't mean you walk around everyday, taking fights, thinking your the toughest man on the planet. I think it would have been extremely arrogant on my part to take the fight, to assume, I could beat one of the top five, top ten fighters on the planet without preparing for him whatsoever. That would be extremely ignorant.
Jones touched on how he answers critics who blasted him for not taking the fight, while praised Sonnen for accepting short notice:
"People will say, 'Well, he (Sonnen) didn't train whatsoever for the fight, so, he is brave enough to fight you, why aren't you brave enough to fight him?' And my answer to that argument is, there are guys on the street right now that would like to take a fight against me just to see how they would do, let alone, talk about one of the top fighters in the world looking to fight me. Especially one of the top fighters in the world that has absolutely nothing to lose. I don't think people realize that Chael's record in the UFC is 5-6. 5-6. And he lost his last two fights, so why would I put a world championship on the line against a very dangerous opponent, for a person who hasn't even remotely earned the right to consider himself in the position to fight for a world title? That's like hitting the jackpot and I just refuse to be anyone's jackpot. I also make it very clear to all my followers and all the UFC fans, is the reason I am so good at fighting, is not because I'm just this freak athlete with the two brothers in the NFL and I'm just that great at fighting, it's that the reason, my secret to success is being so prepared. If you follow my Twitter at all, all I ever tweet about is training and how I just finished watching film again and how we just studied again. I'm just trying to share with young fighters the importance of being prepared and training your butt off. I train five times a day, and I really doubt that other light heavyweights train five times a day and I study every night. So why, if I've made it so well documented that I study like to the point to where I'm obsessed with my opponent, if I've elaborated that much on how big I am on preparation, why would I go against everything I stand for and take a last minute fight? That makes zero sense for me, my coaching staff, and my management team."
On the only person he would have faced on late replacement:
"The only person that I would have fought would have been Rashad Evans because the style is so similar to Dan Henderson, he is a guy who wrestles very well and scrambles very well in certain positions and he has a huge overhand right, his left hand isn't that big of a threat but it's there. Rashad Evans, stylistically, was the only fight that was similar enough to the skill set we had trained for."
On his opinions on Chael Sonnen trying to talk himself into a title shot and not ‘deserving' to get beat up by him:
"You can't make crazy decision like that base on your emotions, I mean, Chael Sonnen offending me and talking about my parents and things like that, yeah, that's terrible, that pisses me off, but, I can't just put a multimillion dollar career and a legacy, I'm closing in on Tito Ortiz' all time great record, I can't put all that on the line because someone talked about my momma. I gotta freaking think smart here, I gotta think like a warrior, like a strategist and I gotta think as a business man. Its 2012 and there are a lot of athletes out there that are just broke. I don't want to be a one of those fighters that are fighting at 38 and 45-years old, fighting because you're old school that's cool to do. I think it's cool to win your fights decisively and cool to take care of yourself and your family and company and your business. And, another thing, I clearly said that I would not allow Chael Sonnen to jump the line by using his mouth. And what was he doing? Jumping the line by using his mouth. Why would I contradict myself when I clearly just said, I feel Chael Sonnen is a racist the way he treats Brazilians, it's just totally uncalled for. I have zero respect for him. Like my fight coming up, I'm honored to fight Vitor Belfort. Vitor is a Christian like I am, he is an honorable man, he's a good classy clean-cut dude, this is an honor in fighting against Vitor Belfort. Fighting Chael Sonnen, he's a punk, he's a thug, he calls himself the 'American Gangster' and he freaking ratted on all of his friends in the money laundering situation and he calls himself gangster, that's not gangster, the guys a straight punk that uses his mouth, he won't be remembered in history because he loses. People remember in history the winners, not people with big mouths. I clearly said a week earlier, before all this happened, I wouldn't allow Chael to jump the line and what does he do, he tries to jump the line. Why would I accept the fight against someone that doesn't even deserve to get beat up by me?"
On whether or not he knew in advance Zuffa officials would cancel UFC 151 based on his decision:
"No, that is not true, that is not true. When I was talking to Dana and Lorenzo on the phone about the whole situation, the mentioned that they had no clue what they were going to do about the situation and I apologized a thousand times and I told them how much I respect them and how much my job means, and I basically said, 'If you guys respect me, please understand what type of athlete I am and I really love coming through for you guys.' I fought four times in ten months, I did every media tour I had to do and did, at times, I didn't know if I was going to win this fight because I was doing so much media for the UFC. I do tons of things that I don't get paid for, just to do it, just to try and be a company guy. I had a lot of pride, and I still have a lot of pride in trying to be a company guy for the UFC, but, putting my livelihood on the line? You can't ask me to do that. You just can't ask me to do that. That's way too much to lose and they should have understood that and they could have kept the card on, but instead, they made the executive decision to cancel the fights and blamed it all on me. If I knew I had the power to cancel fights, I'd probably be, that's just you know, you know, it is not my fault that was the type of card that they designed. But, whatever man, whatever. The UFC prides themselves on, we pride ourselves on having full cards, stacked, unlike boxing. Boxing has absolutely nobody and then they have the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight at the end. UFC is known for having beautiful fight cards, from top to bottom, even the undercard, why wasn't that the case? In my opinion, I thought that was the case. My teammates were on that card. All martial arts is beautiful to me, I would have never canceled a martial arts fight. All the other fighters that are pissed at me, don't be pissed at me, I'm not the one who basically said you weren't good enough to pay-per-view. That wasn't my decision, I had to protect me, myself. I'm the CEO of Jon 'Bones' Jones brand, not other fighter's or the UFC's brand."
On Dana White's strong words towards him at the conference call and his relationship with the brash president moving forward:
"I just really felt hurt by Dana. Because, yes, I did a get a DWI, outside of that situation, I've tried my best, my absolute best to be a person who I extremely nice to all the fans, whether they are my fans or not. I try my best to always preach positivity, to always try be just like a good dude. A good representative of the UFC. I did campaigns to get UFC legalized in New York state. I do everything they ask me to do, I really do, and you know, it really hurt man, it hurt to be on the different spectrum, to be compared to Tito Ortiz. I don't complain about money, I don't complain about anything, I do what I'm told. I'm the champion the fights way more than any other champion. You go from me and you being really close, I mean, at the last press conference after Rashad, he was like, 'Don't you just love this guy?' Now, I'm like the, I'm just hated because I did what was right for me and my future? If I would have lost that fight, I would simply not been the champ anymore. He (Dana) wouldn't' have lost sleep over that. I can't take rational decisions to make him happy. I feel sorry that people lost all that money and stuff, I really do, tons of my friends and family, I was the main event, tons of my friends and family lost money on that and I feel terrible about that. I just thought I meant a lot more to him, you know? I really did. I didn't really look at him like a boss or anything, I just looked at him like a friend a business partner and I just thought I meant a lot to the UFC and they made me feel like a piece of meat. Like a total piece of meat. He just completely bashed me out and my coach, it was just terrible man, just terrible. It's just good to see where I stand with him. There is no need to have any type of fake relationship in the future. I want to continue to do my best for the UFC, but it's definitely good to see what I really mean to him."
There you have it folks, straight from the horse's mouth. Not holding back, Jones definitely didn't mince any words when it came to his feelings and how he is being portrayed as the bad guy following the UFC 151 debacle.
After reading some of those comments from Jones, does your opinion change on the young champion's decision to not accept a late-replacement opponent, or are your firm in your stance?
"Bones" will now take on Vitor Belfort in the headlining bout of UFC 152 on Sept. 22, 2012 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Only three weeks away, it will be interesting to see the interaction between White and Jones in the promotion leading up to the event.
To listen to the entire 41-minute interview, including Jones denying ever calling White to ask Sonnen to stop picking on him, why he feels Chael crossed the line, and why he thinks Vitor has a better chance at beating him than Dan Henderson would have, click here.