Jon Jones Does What Even Politicians Couldn't: Forces the UFC to Cancel an Event
It's quite a list: cable executives, fellow fighters, the UFC and the sport's sponsors and advertisers. Just a few of the people that UFC president Dana White says should and will be furious with light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in the wake of his decision to refuse a fight with Chael Sonnen.
"This is one of those selfish, disgusting decisions that don't just affect you," White said during a media conference call.
Fighters on the undercard are out a paycheck. The UFC is out millions in expenses. And, while tickets are refundable, many fans will be stuck with airfare costs after planning trips to see the show in Sin City.
There are certain kinds of fighters, the UFC president preached, that built the company into a billion-dollar behemoth. Jones, he said, isn't one of them. Thanks to his refusal to fight Sonnen on just eight-days notice, the UFC will be forced to cancel an event for the first time in the company's 18-year history.
That covers a lot of ground. In 1997, New York politicians banned the UFC days before an event. But the company never thought about quitting. Instead, then-president David Isaacs orchestrated a daring plan to move the event to the Deep South.
"David chartered two 737s and loaded the Octagon on them," former UFC marketing guru Campbell McClaren told me in Total MMA. "The Octagon was a 20 \-hour build and we had 36 hours. So we had to pack it up, put it on the plane, and then we had to find a venue. That was crazy, we were looking all over the country for a venue.
"We found that beautiful little theatre in Dothan, Alabama, but there was a question about whether we could fit the Octagon in the side door, we certainly had no time to sell tickets. The fighters were all there warming up in Buffalo and they had to be shipped down there, they were all grumbling. Everyone was pissed off. The director sits in the truck and calls the camera action. He needs a day to prepare for that at the minimum. And he was going to be landing, going right to the truck, and starting. Logistically it is amazing that it even happened. The fact that it went on live TV is just mind boggling."
There are stories like that attached to many UFC events, as the company tried to stay one step ahead of angry politicians. The UFC higher-ups were never beaten. But the UFC's track record of success, almost two decades long, has finally ended—not due to disaster, but to one man's selfish decision.
Sonnen immediately agreed to the fight. The show could have been saved. But Jones, who would have been the prohibitive favorite, turned it down after consulting coach Greg Jackson.
It's a befuddling decision by a young man with a history of making bad calls. Earlier this week, I chided Jones for his poor public relations. With money, ego and a smidgen of power, I'm afraid we ain't seen nothing yet.
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