The MMA world needed someone to blame for the UFC 151 fallout, and Jon Jones became the perfect scapegoat in a situation he was not responsible for.
A few days ago, people questioned whether or not Jones would one day be considered the most hated man in MMA history. The questions have ceased, and reality is starting to sink in: Jones is the most hated man in MMA history.
Jones was slated to fight MMA legend Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC 151, but it was announced nine days out from the event that Henderson was forced to withdraw from the bout due to a partially torn MCL suffered in training.
UFC President Dana White said in a media conference call that Chael Sonnen had agreed to step in as a late replacement, but Jones turned down the fight. White, who was reportedly disgusted by Jones' decision, cancelled the entire fight card, which marked the first event cancelled in UFC history.
"This is one of the selfish disgusting decisions. It doesn't just affect Jon Jones. I don't think this is going to be a decision that makes people like Jon Jones," said White, according to live updates from Bleacher Report's Matthew Roth.
Being a fight promoter, you can't make someone fight. I can't say "you have to fight this Saturday." You're either a fighter or you're not. This is what we all do for a living. I have a building where 250 people have been busting their ass to promote this card. Good for you Jon Jones that you don't need this fight. There's a bunch of guys on the undercard who need this fight to feed their families. I can't make him take the fight but he should.
Does the cancellation of an entire event truly fall on Jones' shoulders? It's easy to point fingers, but in all honesty, this entire situation is just unfortunate.
One interesting piece is Henderson's ability to appear blameless when his last-minute injury was the incident that initiated the domino effect.
The details surrounding Henderson's injury are a bit murky, but it's hard not to ponder how a fighter gets injured a little over a week out from a bout. In the last week or so leading up to a fight, most fighters are taking it easy in camp and using the extra time to refine technique. And at 41 years of age, the idea of toning it down towards the end makes even more sense for Henderson.
With that said, it's universally known that injuries occur often in MMA. The grueling training regimens and endless hours spent in the gym make them inevitable. Fighters are going to get hurt. It's the promotion's responsibility to be prepared to deal with the inevitable and move on.
Unfortunately, it seems like the UFC has stretched itself a bit thin lately. In past events, the co-main event was just as good, if not better than the main event. The UFC has seemingly moved in the direction of pumping out mediocre pay-per-view cards with a huge cherry for a main event on top.
With Jake Ellenberger and Jay Hieron scheduled for the co-main event for UFC 151, the promotion found itself backed into a corner. People weren't going to shell out 50 bucks for Ellenberger vs. Hieron.
Some consideration has to go into the fact that Ellenberger was originally slated to face Josh Koscheck, but an injury changed the landscape of the co-main event.
Still, previous fight cards show similar issues. Recent co-main event pay-per-view bouts have featured the likes of Donald Cerrone vs. Melvin Guillard, Cezar Ferreira vs. Sergio Moraes and Tim Boetsch vs. Hector Lombard.
The lack of overwhelming star power on pay-per-view cards makes it incredibly hard for the UFC to recover when fighters pull out with injuries.
Why not make one pay-per-view card a month and load it up with the best available talent? The amount of free cards could be slightly increased to feature more of the up-and-coming fighters.
With free cards in mind, was there no way possible to bump Ellenberger vs. Hieron to main-event status and feature the fight card on Fuel TV? Did UFC 151 have to be a pay-per-view event? This would've ensured the other fighters on the card got to compete and receive their well-deserved paydays.
As for Jones, he has every right to turn down a fight against an opponent he wasn't prepared for. Sonnen isn't a chump by any means, and most consider him the No. 2 middleweight in the world.
People love to talk up Sonnen and Henderson as having the exact same fighting styles, which couldn't be further from the truth. Henderson is a much more volatile striker and clinch fighter. His wrestling is still world class, but at this point in his career, it could be argued that Sonnen is a better wrestler. People tend to forget the wrestling clinic Jake Shields put on Henderson a little over two years ago.
In MMA, you're only as good as your last fight. Sponsorships represent a huge chunk of a fighter's payday. Blue-collar sponsors like Nike only work with the best in a given sport. To stay on top, Jones has to keep winning.
It's a major risk to take a fight on nine days notice against elite-level opposition. Lyoto Machida and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua wouldn't even step up to fight Jones at UFC 152, despite being a few weeks out from the event.
As the old adage goes, "Haters are going to hate."
Jones isn't to blame for the UFC 151 fallout.
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