When you're a mixed martial arts fan, the cancellation of a high-profile event is always disappointing but it's something you have to live with, as it happens all the time.
MMA fans know that injuries are inevitable in such an intense sport and are even willing to give some fighters a pass when out-of-cage antics force cards to change.
So, it's a little bit unusual to see such a major backlash against UFC Light Heavyweight champ Jon Jones when his decision to not fight replacement opponent Chael Sonnen forced the UFC on Thursday to cancel next week's UFC 151.
However, it's not the cancellation of the bout that has fans — and fighters — ticked off, but it's the manner in which Jones went about the decision.
Jones had a meteoric rise to the top of the MMA world, taking out a who's who of former champs after only training in the sport for a short period of time. Fans and media members quickly dubbed "Bones" the next big thing, projecting his career to skyrocket in a manner similar to other sports stars such as Michael Jordan — a notion reaffirmed after his recent signing with Nike.
And while the early Jon Jones espoused the virtues of being humble and not letting the fame get to his head, it appears that is exactly what he let happen.
It's a cliché in MMA that fighters will take on anyone at any time. In reality, fighters at Jones' level have to go against this idea because some fights can hurt their careers. While fans may not like it, Jones is really making the best decision for himself and doesn't want to put his belt on the line when all the factors aren't pointing in his favor.
But in this case, Jones crossed the line.
This wasn't a dismissal of a possible superfight or a career safeguard like the Shogun Rua-Glover Teixeria situation. As such a high-profile main event, Jones had more than the weight of a championship bout on his back, but also the weight of the entire weekend spectacle that comes along with a UFC pay-per-view.
As a champion of his caliber, Jones' decisions affect more than his career but also the fans, other fighters and the UFC — even the image of the sport itself.
Instead of coming across as the humble kid who became the youngest champ in UFC history, Jones is transforming into MMA's version of Floyd Mayweather. Rather than representing something bigger than himself, Jones is coming across as a selfish, business-first personality, not a fearless fighter.
Already, Jones was losing fans for his apparent cockiness accompanied by a bad run-in with the law. If DUI's weren't enough to damage his image, Jones' tensions with the UFC over his opponents make him look like a bratty drama queen.
Picking fights may fly now, but once someone figures out the Jon Jones puzzle and puts him in his place, his star may fade in the eyes of the UFC. Like other former champs who thought that they were bigger than the UFC, Jones may quickly find the exit if he ever hits a losing skid.
But worst of all, the other fighters on the card will definitely have a few choice words for Mr. Jones.
Unlike the superstar champ, guys like Shane Roller, Jacob Volkmann and Danny Castillo are out of a paycheck despite spending weeks putting their bodies through hell in training camp.
UFC lightweight Joe Lauzon had a great summary on his blog of what's it like for a fighter when an event is canceled:
Not only has this screwed over all the fans that bought tickets, non refundable airfare, took off work, made arrangements, etc… but think of all the fighters. Fighters that put in full camps, flew people in that helped them trains, etc. By the time I am actually fight, I spend close to 20k between corners, flights, expenses, coaches, etc… and then to have the whole show cancelled because ONE guy didn’t want to fight. This ONE guy that had trained an entire camp, who was the CHAMP and at the top of his weight class, who was going to fight someone who didn’t do the camp, and was fighting UP a weight class.
For guys like Jones, missing a fight isn't as big a deal because they get paid so well by the UFC and are earning big paydays from international sponsors. The undercard guys aren't so lucky and are really up a creek without a paddle when fights get scrapped.
Jones may have added a extra few days to his reign as champion by not fighting Chael Sonnen, but he definitely lost the respect of the fans and his fellow fighters when his selfish choice canceled the now infamous UFC 151.
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