I once heard a woman say that Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is a man's version of watching soap operas. I never thought that was true, until a few weeks ago, when the crap hit the fan and got all over everything. Notably, the proverbial crap caused the cancellation of UFC 151, a feat that hadn't been accomplished in the entire history of the UFC.
It was epic. Reports were flying everywhere. Some of them were even true. Twitter wars were had. Relationships were damaged, possibly irreparably so. And it all revolved around two men: UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones and his boss, UFC President Dana White.
Sure, there were other parties involved. Dan Henderson is the man who may have sparked the match that set it all ablaze when he announced, just eight days prior to the event, that he was withdrawing from his fight versus "Bones" due to a tear in his MCL.
Then there was Chael Sonnen, who bravely stood up and volunteered to step in and fight Jones on short notice. The only problem? "Jonny Bones" wasn't having it, and at the urging of his coach, Greg Jackson, he declined the opportunity to take on "The American Gangster." It was a decision that sent White into a fit of rage, going so far as to cancel UFC 151 before stating Jones and Jackson "murdered" the card.
We thought Lyoto Machida would be stepping in and fighting Jones at UFC 152 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Sept. 22, 2012. But apparently, everyone was aware of this except "The Dragon" himself, stating that he simply did not have enough time to properly prepare for the champion who choked him out and dropped him in a disheveled pile of himself when they last fought. Thus, he, too, added his name to the list of people who were not interested in fighting for a belt.
Finally, mixed martial arts (MMA) legend and fan favorite Vitor Belfort volunteered to step up and take on the man who no one else (besides Sonnen) seemed to have any interest in fighting. He signed his name on the dotted line, causing Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort to become the new main event for UFC 152.
Clear as mud? We thought so.
No worries. After the jump, we'll try and clear things up as much as possible, bringing you some of the latest comments from "Uncle Dana" himself on the timeline, the "blame game," and where he currently stands with Jones.
White's original backlash was fiery and, to some, unexpected. But it was in the spur of the moment. He's now had plenty of time to reflect and cool down.
During an interview with "UFC Tonight's" Ariel Helwani, White relives those moments, and he talked about how he currently feels about it all, in retrospect.
"I have. I had my moment, where I was upset. Again, one of the things that I like to do is, I like consistency. I love that we had never cancelled an event. There were times when people felt like, 'Should you have made that event a pay-per-view?' But, the show always goes on. People don't realize the collateral damage that goes on -- the amount of people that depend on these events to happen. Not just fighters or the UFC, but there's so many other people that either worked for or are invested in this, in some way. It's the first time we ever had to do it, so I was a little emotional about it. I won't speak for the UFC, but on my end, I have no regrets whatsoever. Nothing. No. What exactly did I say about Jon Jones that was so horrible?"
White went on to talk about Sonnen, the man who did his best to stand in the gap and save UFC 151. He's aware that many felt he didn't deserve a title shot versus Jones, and that some even feel he didn't deserve the title shots he already received opposite UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva.
He gets where they're all coming from, he just disagrees.
"Chael Sonnen was the only guy who accepted the fight. He was the only one willing to step up. It's one thing if you're trying to talk your way into a fight, and you can jump over a bunch of people, because you just talked, but the reality is, Chael Sonnen got the fight that he did with Anderson Silva, because he's the only guy to ever come close to beating him. And, then, he was the only guy to step up, on short notice, for the fight with Jones. Not only did he accept the fight, he said, 'I'll fly, myself, to Las Vegas, tonight, and fight him.' Chael says some crazy stuff, but he meant it. The guy was gonna show up, with no training camp whatsoever. He was gonna have his eight days, and he was gonna show up and train."
It was all for naught, as the fight never did come to fruition, much to the chagrin of White, who along with many others, was somewhat befuddled by Jones' decision to opt out.
He still disagrees with the decision, and he hasn't had a face-to-face with Jones since it all went down. However, he's trying to take it all with a grain of salt and to remember that, at the end of the day, Jones is still a 25-year old kid.
"Jon and I haven't talked, since the incident. do I hate Jon Jones or have any animosity towards him, right now? I don't. If I did, I'd tell you. I think you know that. As we move along in our relationship, we'll find out where we're at. Obviously, this thing that just went down is a little weird. It's never happened before. But, all my other interactions with Jon Jones have been good. He's a young guy. Has he made some bad choices and bad decisions? Yeah. Who doesn't when they're his age? Seriously. Imagine, if I want back again, in my life, and I was 23 years old, a ton of fame, a ton of money and everything else -- that's when you make all your mistakes. The great thing about making all your mistakes in your twenties, is when you really start to establish yourself, in your late twenties and early thirties, you've already done all the stupid stuff, and you can conduct yourself in the way that you should. When you're in your early twenties, it's hard to keep the wheels on the bus, when all the fame and money and everything starts hitting. So, I give Jon Jones a lot of slack when it comes to that. The guy's young. There's been guys who have had more fame and more money at a younger age, but you gotta admit, it's tough to do when you're his age."
When it was announced that Jones' opponent would be Vitor Belfort, many were shocked. It seemed to come out of nowhere. Apparently, you can add the bosses at Zuffa to the "shocked camp," as "The Phenom" was never the opponent they had in mind.
Ultimately, the savvy veteran ended up making them an offer they couldn't refuse, and they were more than happy to reward him with the massive opportunity.
"He called. He started blowing Lorenzo up. Vitor is fired up to have this opportunity. First of all, Vitor is the only Brazilian who stepped up and took the fight, right? Number two, that Anderson Silva fight drives him nuts. It drives him crazy. He dove right in. What some guys forget, is that it's about opportunity. When you get the opportunity to fight for the title, no matter how it comes, you take it. You jump on it. You do everything you can to prepare for it, and you take that opportunity, whenever you can get it, because you don't know when it's gonna come again...ever. Vitor could have been on track, moved up to 205 and lost to a guy before he ever got to Jon Jones. It's an amazing opportunity."
An amazing opportunity, indeed.
Hopefully, for Belfort, it will be an opportunity that ends better than his last shot at a UFC belt, as most fans will remember the woeful night that Belfort was posterized when Anderson Silva nailed him in the face with "the front kick heard 'round the world."
Check out a snippet of White's interview on "UFC Tonight," where he discusses the emotional roller coaster he's been on since August 23, and his take on how he believes he handled it all: