On Thursday at 2 p.m. ET Dana White made the announcement that shook the MMA world to its core. Dan Henderson had no choice but to back out of his scheduled light heavyweight title fight with champion Jon Jones which was supposed to take place Saturday September 1 at The Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Henderson has a partial tear of his MCL and was unable to resume his training. Usually what would happen in this situation is the UFC would scramble for a last-minute replacement to fill the void that Henderson’s departure left.
What happened next was the truly shocking part of the whole story. The UFC was having trouble finding a replacement but Chael Sonnen agreed unequivocally. On 8 days notice in a brand new weight class against one of the baddest men in the sport. At this point the UFC thought they had a high quality replacement fight that would might even draw more interest than the original fight. They even went as far as to have their PR team start to make new commercials and press releases. Then Dana made the call to Jon Jones. He was presented with the new option and he said he wanted to speak with his coaches and his team. Understandable for sure. His head coach Greg Jackson advised him that If Jones chose to take the fight with Chael on 9 days notice it would be the worst decision of his career. Jones chose to decline the fight with Sonnen.
Dana White used the term “disgusted” when he described how he felt about the decision. He said he really didn’t expect that response. He was asked on the media call if Jon Jones was made aware of the fact that if the champ declined the fight the whole card would be cancelled. He said Jones was made aware of all the repercussions. This is an unprecedented move by the UFC to cancel a whole event like that. There is a lot of blame to go around. I am from the thinking that if you are the champion and have that supreme confidence in your abilities the way Jones does that he should have taken the challenge. Especially when he is coming off that DUI charge and had his golden boy reputation somewhat tarnished. He would have gained so much respect from the fans, his fellow fighters, and from the UFC brass.
Three of the fights have already been rerouted to the UFC on FX 5 card in Minneapolis on October 5. Those fights are Jake Ellenberger vs Jay Hieron, Danny Castillo vs Michael Johnson, and Shane Roller vs Jacob Volkmann. This will make that card that much stronger but what about the fans who have paid for airfare and hotel rooms in Vegas already. Yeah, their tickets will be refunded but dealing with the airlines and hotels might not be so easy. At least it is Vegas and hopefully the fans will keep their plans for the trip and still have a great time.
Jones and the Jackson camp are not the only parties at fault here. See this card was really only one major fight deep to begin with. The co-main event was with a fighter in Ellenberger who was coming off a loss, against Jay Hieron who was a last-minute replacement himself because of an injury to Josh Koscheck and he was making his first appearance in the UFC in 7 years. He is known by MMA hardcores but not by casual fans who only follow the UFC. This card besides the Jones-Hendo fight looked more like a UFC on Fuel card. My point is the UFC is stretched way too thin with too many cards. I am not complaining about having a card almost every weekend because for me the more the merrier, but realistically it might be better for everyone involved to scale it back just a bit. This will only make the fans appreciate the cards that much more and provide much more stacked cards. Take into account all the injuries that have plagued the sport, especially in the last year as well. I totally understand that Dana White is a genius in this game and fully knows what he is doing but I hope he can see that all the blame for this cancellation should not fall on Jones shoulders alone.
Then Thursday night the story gets even more interesting. It was first reported that Jones would meet Lyoto Machida at UFC 152 in Toronto. Then Machida said he would need more time to prepare for Jones so instead Jon Jones will now meet Vitor Belfort, who volunteered to take the title shot at 205lbs. Dana White announced that because Machida turned down the fight he would now have to fight another top contender before he would receive his title shot. So now the UFC will have to find another opponent for Alan Belcher at UFC 153 in October because of the Belfort development. Probably the least of their worries right now. The co-main event of the UFC 152 card in Toronto will be Joseph Benavides-Demetrious Johnson for the inaugural Flyweight Title and Michael Bisping-Brian Stann is the third main fight now.
Overall a wild day in the world of MMA for sure. The majority of MMA fighters have taken to Twitter to express their displeasure with Jones decision. Only a small handful have taken Jones side in this matter. Most notably “King Mo” Luwal. I am sure the UFC will do right by the fighters affected by this cancellation, but I just hope lessons were learned on all ends and the sport can move on in a positive manner.