My buddy "Big" Rick Robertson had a saying, "You can rub, and rub, and rub, but you can’t polish a turd."
That came to mind Saturday night (April 27, 2013) as the joke that was UFC 159, which took place at Prudential Center in Newark, N.j., concluded with Jon Jones dispatching a badly overmatched Chael Sonnen en route to a referee stoppage at 4:43 of the opening round (watch highlights here).
Keith Peterson’s intervention might have been a tad quick (or not) – from his voice, you get the feeling that he’s always this-close to taking a three-cigarette break – but, it merely delayed the inevitable. Except for one weird twist – literally.
Jones’ toe, which was broken in a freak happening before the finish, therefore avoiding the much larger promotional debacle of the champion losing his belt, via injury, in a fight he was dominating against a challenger who should’ve never been there in the first place.
With this farce happily in the rear-view mirror, let’s hope UFC realizes the perils of selling its integrity short to sell tickets to fights that don’t pass the smell test. This was precisely that, for a few reasons that are much-hackneyed to fight game watchers, but merit review, nonetheless.
Sonnen provided a boost for the last season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17. He’d talk plenty of smack and hype the fight. And he certainly had the Q-rating to generate pay-per-view (PPV) buyers, if not necessarily backers at the betting window (he came in as an 8-1 favorite, which much higher than most challengers).
And now it’s done. And the UFC ought to be glad that, despite the aborted ending to a bout that surprised no one, it could have been far worse.
That being said, the lack of the loudmouth getting his comeuppance through just desserts was a fitting coda. After so much bluster and noise, Sonnen didn’t even get to go out with a bang, but instead a whimper, punctuated by the fact that if he’d lasted another 17 seconds, he might have won the title by injury default.
In a way, it’s fitting justice, because he probably feels even more ripped off than anyone who bought it. It’s the UFC’s job to protect its brand and its product. Last night was a case of poor judgment.
Let’s hope it doesn’t become a trend every time they need ratings, and put this kind of sideshow behind us for good.
Jason Probst can be reached at www.twitter.com/jasonprobst