Now if you’ve been under a rock (or actually working) over the last few hours, here are the basics to catch you up:
- Dan Henderson tore his MCL in training and had to withdraw.
- Dana White asked Lyoto Machida to step in but Machida declined due to the short turnaround time.
- Dana White then contacts Chael Sonnen—yes, that Chael Sonnen.
- Sonnen accepts.
- Jon Jones declines.
In the last three hours, Jon Jones has turned into MMA Public Enemy No. 1. Here’s the question: should he be?
Yes, the UFC will lose millions on this. Yes, the undercard fighters will not be paid and most of them can’t afford to go without a paycheck. Yes, the fans who booked flights, hotels, etc. will lose money.
With all that being said, is it fair to blame one man for what is really a no-fault situation? Here’s the kicker, what if I said the UFC and Jon Jones will come out stronger and more profitable because of this decision?
First, let’s look at the UFC.
Sportswriters, fans and media have been criticizing the UFC for the last year due to lackluster pay-per-view cards. Cries of over-saturation, too many events, and cards showcasing a single marquee matchup have been the common complaints.
Cancelling this event taught the UFC a valuable lesson that all of the injuries this summer apparently didn’t teach them: Be prepared!
Aside from the main event, none of these fights would garner more that an FX card. Jones vs. Henderson essentially carried this card and people were probably buying the PPV for only that fight.
Had Jon Jones accepted the fight, the pre-fight hype and the weigh-in would’ve been epic. Unfortunately, weigh-in viewership isn’t counted in PPV buys.
If Jones had gone and executed Sonnen in about three minutes, the UFC would’ve been crucified for putting in an unworthy opponent by everyone, from fans to current and former fighters alike.
It would’ve been the ultimate disrespect to the fans and many would be hard-pressed to drop another $60 for a PPV anytime soon. It would’ve also damaged the UFC’s cred by showing that simply running your mouth can get you to the front of the championship chow line.
Sorry, but this isn’t Strikeforce.
Now let’s look at Jones’ future.
Jones just became a pariah in MMA circles. However, he may have just made the best business decision of his career.
Question: When did Floyd Mayweather truly become the huge draw that he now is? When did Chael Sonnen start drawing his enormous popularity? What did Tito Ortiz build his career on? In the fight business, nice guys don’t get the paydays.
People love to watch their favorite fighters, but they will certainly pay more money to watch a loudmouth or arrogant fighter get what’s coming to him.
Jones complained that the PPV buy numbers would be small for his Machida rematch. I would almost guarantee that they’ll increase significantly after this move. The more he wins, the more money he’s going to make. People will tune in just to see if someone will finally teach this kid a lesson.
Jones will probably never be a widely loved fighter again, but if financial stability is his goal, he just hit the jackpot. He’s already built the persona that he's arrogant or feel he’s untouchable, this has only elevated now and will in turn elevate his net worth.
While I do not support fighters choosing who they fight (a la boxing), this was a different situation. Jones was contracted to fight Dan Henderson who is now hurt. Jones had nothing to gain from this and everything to lose.
Rampage would’ve said no, especially since Chael’s a wrestler. Rashad would’ve said no, just like he chose to wait nearly a year for Rua. Machida certainly would’ve said no, as he’s told Dana no before.
Fighters are fighters, but they are also making a living and must protect their business interest first and foremost. It may not seem like it now, but the darkness comes before the storm.
If the UFC wanted mainstream and primetime, this decision needed to be made. As the president of a multi-million dollar organization, Dana White will realizes and probably see it more clearly once he stops fuming.
Follow Walt J as he comes to you on his blog “Live From AREA 49″ with his rants on the world of sports from the fan perspective.. Whether it’s picks against the spread, fantasy football tips, or sheer frustration with your team, AREA 49 has a place for you. Follow him on Facebook, and on Twitter @area49sports.