UFC 151: Jon Jones’ refusal to fight stand in opponent cancels event
UFC 151 has been cancelled after defending Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones refused to fight replacement opponent Chael Sonnen following an injury to Jones original opponent, Dan Henderson.
The decision to cancel the entire event is a huge one for the UFC and one that would not have taken lightly.
However, this is a unique situation where we have a current champion refusing to fight a stand in opponent.
Not a single UFC even go by where a fighter is as to take on an opponent they have not trained for. The nature of MMA training means that injuries are common, and many times we see fighters replaced after they have been ruled out with injury.
It is part of the sport all fighters need to be ready to deal with.
Chael Sonnen, coming off a loss to Anderson Silva, was willing to step up from the 185 pound division to take this fight.
That is the attitude that the UFC has always tried to cultivate among its fighters. These guys are fighters, if they don’t want to test themselves and fight who ever is put in front of them, go and do something else for a living.
For Jones, arguably the best pound for pound fighter in MMA, to turn down a fight against an opponent from a lower weight division who only has 8 days to prepare for the fight, goes against everything the UFC is about.
It makes the sport have the same stench about it that boxing now has where fighters look to duck opponents they are not comfortable to face.
It is a public relations disaster for the UFC and it cast Jon Jones in a new light, one that fans will never forgive him for.
Many are questioning why the UFC didn’t just put in place a replacement fight and keep UFC 151 rather than cancel it.
Keep in mind though, this entire event is promoted around having the Light Heavywheight title on the line. Sure, you could take that away and still have a card to promote, but by not having the title on the line there is no doubt the UFC would have to compensate sponsors, broadcasters and fans.
On top of that, the UFC needed to draw a line in the sand. They could not afford to set a precedence where by headline fighters and title holders felt they could refuse to fight stand in fighters at short notice.
This situation will happen again. We will see another title holder in the near future taking on a replacement opponent. The UFC will lose a lot of money by cancelling UFC 151, but it would have lost far more in the future if title holders felt like refusing to fight was actually an option open to them.
Now, the spiking of UFC 151 is all about Jon Jones refusing to fight.
It is a massive decision that is all on his shoulders. No other champion is going to want something like that against their name. In my opinion, I don’t think they will get a chance.
I believe that the UFC will make sure that future contracts state that fighters have to turn up to fight if healthy, no matter what opponents is put in front of them.
I like Jon Jones. He is an exciting fighter to see and he improves every single time he fights.
He is a fighter the UFC could use to be a figurehead of the entire sport. Now, that will all change. Dana White is not the type of person to let bygones be bygones.
I would expect that now, Jones will find he is treated very differently by UFC management, and its hard to blame them really.
My guess is that we will now see the UFC looking to push Jones up to the Heavyweight division faster than we might have seen before this decision. The Light Heavyweight division is stacked with talent that can headline an event while the Heavyweight division is always looking for more talent.
I suspect that the UFC would have been happy to see Jones build an incredible run at Light Heavyweight for some time, but now, why do him any favours? Sure, its up to Jones to make the decision to step up, but you can be sure the pressure will now be on.
The big winning out of all of this is Chael Sonnen. To be willing to step up from 185 on short notice, coming off a loss, with just 8 days preparation, and then having the Light Heavyweight Champion refusing to fight you… Sonnen comes out of this entire saga looking golden!
I don’t think this was a great match up for Sonnen. I don’t even think that a move to the Light Heavyweight division is a good thing for his career. He’s a fighter though, and he was ready to fight.
For Jon Jones to be facing Dan Henderson, another fighter that will take on any opponent at any weight class, lose him as an opponent and then refuse to face a 185 pounder coming up a division on short notice, that is going to be part of Jones legacy whether he likes it or not. Refusing to fight Chael Sonnen will be a dark cloud hanging over his career.
Hopefully when Jones is sitting down to look at his pay per view numbers, it all seems worth it…