I remember a time, and it doesn't seem like that long ago, when folks were telling me that Jon Jones would never recover from the disaster that happened when he turned down a fight with Chael Sonnen on eight days notice, thus forcing the cancellation of the first UFC event in the Zuffa era.
The idea, and I don't quite know what this was based on, was that Jones would suffer enormously from a public relations standpoint. That he was driving his remaining fans away and that he needed to seriously consider his approach to every facet of his life before he became a pariah.
None of this was true, obviously.
From the moment Jones stepped into the Xtreme Couture gym today to sit down with "Showdown" Joe Ferraro for a spot on SportsNet, he was a complete superstar. I was sitting on the mat, watching Joseph Benavidez hit pads (and do cartwheels) when I heard the hundreds of fans in attendance erupt, and I knew in an instant that Jones had made his arrival. And I also knew that whatever notion the hardcore fans have of how much Jon Jones means to the sport is totally wrong.
Jones finished up with Showdown Joe and then walked onto the mat, wearing a white "Bones Knows" Nike shirt and clad head to toe in nothing but his customary red, black and white Nike gear. As of right now, there are no custom Bones shoes or a custom Bones logo, but those are coming.
And they are coming soon, because the Jon Jones train keeps on rolling.
In the insulated world of the hardcore mixed martial arts fan, Jones is the hated one, the man who keeps attempting to bring sound decisions and logical business moves into their beloved cage-fighting world.
But that world, as we saw today, is so very small. Because for the hundreds of people who made the 30-minute trek to Xtreme Couture on the outskirts of Toronto, Jones is still a star. He's a superstar who added extreme value to a card that, plain and simple, just wasn't selling very well. Now? It's the hottest ticket in town for the weekend.
Look, I'm not trying to tell you that the entire world will be in Jones' corner come Saturday night. We know that isn't the case. He had his share of detractors long before UFC 151 came around, and they'll continue to stick around long after the UFC train leaves town on Sunday morning.
But what I'm telling you, I guess, is this: Jones isn't the most hated man in the sport. Not by a wide margin. He's still the face of this company, and he'll continue to be so for a very long time. You don't have to accept it, but there will come a point when you are forced to acknowledge it.
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