If you thought that the frantic main card shuffles for events like UFC 149, UFC 151 and UFC 153 were bad, you haven't seen anything yet.
Now that the UFC has stretched itself from monthly pay-per-view events to supporting an additional three FOX Network channels, expect many more main card-caliber fighters to turn down last-minute matches when Dana White and Joe Silva come calling.
For every man like Stephan Bonnar who's got nothing to lose by taking a fight on a couple weeks' notice, there will be far more who pass up the call, safe with the knowledge that saying "no" won't hurt them terribly in the long run.
At best, they'll simply get the Matt Mitrione treatment and Dana will bury them in the press.
And at the absolute worst, the UFC will cancel an entire event and stick the blame on the fighter who just didn't want to compete without getting in a full training camp. That's exactly what happened to Jon Jones after the champion refused to face Chael Sonnen at UFC 151 on eight days' notice.
But just look at them now—instead of playing the blame game, Jones, Sonnen, and White are swapping jokes on the set of The Ultimate Fighter, as if all three of them didn't play any part in the cancellation of a large-scale Las Vegas event two months ago.
Even though the UFC is desperate for quality cards (and counter-intuitively providing their fighters with expensive health insurance), stars like Rampage Jackson, Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida aren't worried about putting themselves before their employer.
After all, why should they risk coming into a fight out of shape, which is usually a solid recipe for racking up a loss?
Although the UFC will sometimes cut a losing fighter at the drop of the hat, the company apparently won't fire anyone for declining a short-notice bout. Not ever.
If Jon Jones could "kill" an entire card and be rewarded that same year with an Ultimate Fighter stint and a high-profile main event against a proven draw in Chael Sonnen, there's really nothing that Dana White can do when someone leaves him high-and-dry with a suddenly-depleted fight card.
So here's some free advice for UFC fans: Always keep your receipts, and make sure you get refundable travel options for all your Octagon-based vacations.
After all, you never know when another rash of injuries is going to decimate a top-heavy UFC card. When it happens again (and it probably will), don't expect too many popular UFC fighters to jump into matches they didn't prepare for—after all these years, they can finally afford to be a little bit selfish.
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