Jon Jones may have "carried the cross" for the UFC's unfortunate cancellation of their September 1 event at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, but he didn't carry it very far. The burden must have been too heavy—instead of accepting the blame for his decision not to fight middleweight star Chael Sonnen on short notice, Jones is once again deflecting responsibility.
In truth, the Light Heavyweight Champion never really embraced a Harry Truman-esque mindset. The buck may have stopped in front of Jones, but he never picked it up and put it in his pocket.
Even while taking responsibility onto his own broad shoulders, he was quick to blame others, notably his employers at the UFC. His new target? None other than challenger Dan Henderson, whose MCL tear started this whole mess.
UFC President Dana White called UFC 151 "the event Jon Jones and Greg Jackson murdered." According to Jones, however, it was Henderson's knee that was to blame. And, of course, technically that is true. If Henderson had not wrecked his knee, we'd be watching prelims right now instead of psychoanalyzing Jones' Twitter account.
So score one point for Jones. Henderson indeed started the ball rolling, his ancient knee giving in to the stress of training. Of course, along the path to cancellation, there were several runaway truck ramps, opportunities to stop disaster in its tracks. The biggest was Chael Sonnen's decision to take the fight on short notice. That could have rescued the event for everyone. But Jones decided not to take that off-ramp, choosing instead to chance his failing brakes on the steep decline into oblivion. In the end, he wrecked spectacularly, drawing the ire of White and the UFC's fans.
I'm not sure he was wrong. As an athlete, refusing the fight was the right move. As a public figure, though, one selling t-shirts and various doo-dads for Nike? It hasn't worked out so well.
What to make of this mess? My colleague Jeremy Botter and I have both reached the conclusion that Jones needs public relations help, and needs it STAT. Although I abhor medical terminology like that in a non-medical context, in this case it's appropriate. Jones is actively killing his image with his incessant public comments in a time common sense all but demands he should shut his big mouth.
Public relations is an art form in itself. And it's clearly an art that Jones has yet to master. If he has any hope of reversing this slide into villainy—and it will take more than a few press releases and hand-selected interviews—Jones must learn how to properly relate to people, to tell them something approximating the truth instead of just saying what he thinks they want to hear.
The problem? Jones had a public relations specialist, John Fuller, who quit in response to Jones' consistent refusal to listen to any of his advice. Jon Jones doesn't believe he needs advice. He sits in rarefied air. What can a mere adviser, a mere mortal, offer to someone of his standing?
For my part, I like this Jon Jones. There's nothing better than a villain, someone to root against with a desperate passion. Fans love to boo and with Tito Ortiz retiring to Huntington Beach, the sport has a void, a place for the "bad boy" waiting for someone to claim it.
Jones is perfect to fill the role. The best part? He doesn't need to dye his hair or put on any kind of phony persona. He just has to be himself. The rest will happen naturally.
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