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Jon Jones: Why Being His Own Man Is the Best Career Decision He Will Ever Make

Apr 21, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Jon Jones reacts to beating Rashad Evans in the main event and light heavyweight title bout during UFC 145 at Philips Arena. Jon Jones won the bout by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE
Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE
Matt JuulContributor IIIOctober 5, 2012

It took a lot of guts for light heavyweight champ Jon Jones to deny UFC President Dana White's request to face Chael Sonnen on eight days' notice during the whole UFC 151 fiasco.

Jones drew a ton of criticism from fans in the aftermath of the eventually canceled card as well as a public berating from the UFC boss who, in all honesty, probably would have fired the star if he wasn't one of the top three pound-for-pound fighters in the world. 

While "Bones'" image may have taken a major hit, deciding to fight on his own terms may have been the best career decision he will ever make.

The old saying that everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame couldn't be truer for a mixed martial artist, whose window of opportunity in the limelight is probably a fraction of that.  Jones realizes this and knows that even one wrong decision could spell the end of his reign over the MMA world.

Sure, the lack of a superstar headliner would have dramatically affected the pay-per-view buys for the event, but it's not Jones' fault that the UFC couldn't assemble a stronger undercard or a satisfactory contingency plan.  The champ probably should have employed a better public relations strategy, however, that doesn't mean he deserves the majority of the blame.

Many media members, including myself, were quick to judge the 25-year-old champion as being arrogant and selfish for seemingly causing the cancellation of UFC 151, but with the dust finally settled, I can't help but feel like we were a bit selfish for asking Jones to put his belt on the line in a fight that had no significant upside for the light heavyweight king.

Even with Jones as a heavy favorite over Sonnen, eight days' notice is simply not enough time to prepare a new gameplan—especially against the only man in UFC history to put a beating on middleweight champ Anderson Silva.  As we eventually saw at UFC 152, underdogs from any weight class are still dangerous at this level of competition, particularly when there's a title on the line.

If Jones had lost to Sonnen, the belt wouldn't be the only thing ripped from his hands as many of his major sponsors, such as Nike, would be forced to reconsider their backing of "Bones," causing a major financial fiasco for the champ.

It's hard not to draw parallels between Jones' UFC 151 decision and the whole media frenzy that surrounded NBA superstar LeBron James when he decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the sunny beaches of Miami.

James was lambasted for being selfish and a "traitor" to the team that had spent years nurturing the young star.  Like Jones, James definitely didn't go about the public relations aspect of the situation in the best manner, causing even more of a backlash.

You can't really fault James, however, for wanting to create both the best financial situation for himself, as well as give himself the best opportunity to win a championship, which finally came to fruition this year, when James led the Heat to victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

As highly competitive, professional athletes who have such a huge potential for greatness, guys like James and Jones just simply can't afford to put their career goals on the line because of the potential public fallout.  At their level, once you've reached such meteoric heights, it's imperative that you do everything in your power to stay on top.

When Jones eventually decides to call it quits, the cancellation of UFC 151 will just be a small footnote in what's sure to be an even more illustrious career.  This choice, however, symbolizes Jones' decision to be his own man who doesn't bend to the will of others, an important decision that will prove to benefit his career greatly.

 

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