In the past month or so, both Jon Jones and Matt Mitrione have been vilified, by folks ranging from the fans all the way up to Dana White, for their respective decisions to not take fights on short notice.
For Jones, it happened eight days prior to a potential bout with Chael Sonnen. Even though a fight with Sonnen should have been eminently winnable, Jones didn't feel comfortable with the idea of going against an opponent with a completely new style on eight days' notice. He paid the price, for a time, with White railing against Jones in the media until their inevitable make-up session a few weeks later.
Mitrione's short-notice offer would have given him more than eight days, but the heavyweight didn't feel like taking a fight with a wrestler the caliber of Cormier, even with a few more weeks to prepare. He didn't feel like his own wrestling game was up to snuff, that he'd be going in the cage with a severe disadvantage, so he turned down the fight.
I understood the decision. White didn't.
"Yeah, Mitrione turned the fight down," White said a few weeks ago (via mmafighting.com). "It’s (expletive) insane. It makes no sense to me. I’m a little bummed out by it.
"Listen, you don't want big opportunities, I hear you. I get it, then," he continued. "All I can say is, I guess he doesn't want big opportunities. I get it. Duly noted."
And that brings us to DaMarques Johnson, who accepted a fight with Gunnar Nelson on less than two weeks' notice. Johnson not only missed weight prior to the fight, but he lost in dominant fashion, bringing his losing streak to three fights in a row.
Those two things in combination—missing weight and putting together a losing streak—would normally be the perfect recipe for a pink slip waiting to happen. I get it. That's the way this sport works. You have to win your fights to stick around and you most certainly have to make weight. Just ask Anthony Johnson how that combo affected his own career.
But what about the fact that Johnson accepted the fight on short notice? He stepped up to help the UFC out when they needed it, something he didn't really need to do, especially when you consider that he was just coming off a dramatic knockout loss to Mike Swick in August.
Johnson was concussed in that fight and had to serve a medical suspension that kept him from sparring or doing any real training in the gym. And when that suspension was over, he immediately stepped up to help the UFC out when it needed a new opponent for Nelson. And then he missed weight and lost the fight, and then was cut.
It doesn't really send a message to other fighters that they need to be willing to take short-notice fights when called upon, does it?
I understand what White means when he says that if you tell Joe Silva that you can make weight—even when accepting short-notice fights—that you really need to be able to make that weight. Johnson probably should've thought the whole thing through a little more thoroughly before agreeing to take the fight, especially given the circumstances he found himself in.
But even though Johnson missed weight, he probably should have been extended a little grace. After all, he was stepping up and grabbing a big opportunity. If that's what the UFC wants its fighters to do, then it needs to be willing to cut them a little slack when things don't go perfectly.
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