Jon Jones has been vilified by MMA fans and media across all parts of the world over the last month for the fallout over UFC 151. I supported Jones shortly after the event was canceled, and made a few points in the process.
My article questioned whether Jones actually knew that if he turned down the Sonnen fight that the whole event would be scrapped. One single fighter is never supposed to make or break an event and is never bigger and better than the organization as a whole. I'm sure Jones felt the same way when making his own selfish decision to turn down the fight.
I was hit with criticism from readers and people saying that Dana White said that Jones knew and so the credibility of my article is out the window. I had heard Dana say this, yes, but does one man's take always speak the truth?
I'm not calling anyone a liar in this situation, but there are always two sides to every story, and at the time, I had yet to hear any explanation, reason or comment from Jones. I like to hear it directly from the mouth of the participants, and Thursday was a chance to do that with both men in town.
During the UFC 152 press conference, Jones clearly stated that he was not told that the whole event would be canceled if he said no to the Sonnen fight. Dana White was not in attendance and could not dispute the claim, but has since come out and stated that what Jones said is not true.
Who do you believe in this debacle of sport megastar vs. league commissioner and president? My take is that it probably is somewhere right in the middle, in that White probably said off the cuff to Jones that he was costing them the whole show, and Jones took it to mean the fall of the numbers at the gate and PPV. I am absolutely speculating off the cuff, but we can never know how it went down inside that UFC 151 war room.
All I know is that no fighter has ever had that type of pressure heaped onto his shoulders before, not Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar or Dan Henderson. A UFC event has never been canceled before because one fight fell through, so why should Jones believe it would now?
He also stated in the conference that if he were another fighter on that card, he would be more insulted and angry at the UFC for not thinking they could pull it off, and I agree with Jones. I would have been like, "Screw him if he doesn't want to fight, move me up on the card and let's roll!"
Not every card will be a gold standard or a total bust, but you can never tell which fights or cards are going to shine from the way they look on paper.
The truth of the matter is that fights and fighters should never be picked based on the quality or quantity of one's mouth; there has always been title climb integrity in the UFC. Jones is as qualified and as entitled as anyone to make the decision as to who he fights, whether Dana or any of us agree, it's his life and limb on the line. Surely, Sonnen is much more than just a mouth, but I agree with Jones that at this time, he should not get a shot at the light heavyweight belt.
Jones will beat Vitor Belfort tonight in Toronto, and it is one of the brighter things to result from the UFC 151 fallout. Toronto got a second Jon Jones fight in less than a year against one of the greatest fighters of all time, and surefire HOF'er, Vitor Belfort.
There have been mild-to-medium boos for Jones all week here at UFC 152 events, but let's move on and have some perspective on a 25-year-old young man finding his way.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report MMA and guest blogger for Sportsnet.ca.
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