UFC 151 cancellation: No one person to blame
There is no one person to blame for the cancellation of UFC 151. On Thursday morning, UFC President Dana White informed the media of the chain of events that led to the organisation having to pull the plug on next weekend’s event.
The short version of the things is that Dan Henderson got hurt, Lyoto Machida declined, Chael Sonnen stepped up, and Jon Jones opted not to fight “The Gangster from West Linn” on short notice.
In a twist of further craziness, Machida declined the opportunity to face Jones at UFC 152 – which White had announced as the end result of all the UFC 151 shuffling.
This led to Vitor Belfort stepping out of his fight with Alan Belcher at UFC 153 to challenge “Bones” for the light heavyweight title next month in Toronto at UFC 152.
For the record, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua turned down the bout as well.
When all this news came out, Twitter opinion went out of control. All kinds of people started pointing fingers; some were directed at Dana White (and ostensibly the UFC), others were turned towards Jones.
Personally, I think anyone trying to pin this on one person is simply choosing not to acknowledge that there are all kinds of sides to this situation.
The blame for this can’t be placed on any one person’s shoulders.
This is a confluence of problems coming together to create a historically bad day.
Taken on its own from a business standpoint, I understand Jones’ decision to decline a fight with Sonnen on extremely short notice.
He has very little to gain, a bunch to lose, and – even though I’m not a big fan of saying this – Sonnen in no way earned the opportunity to fight for the light heavyweight championship.
But I can’t look at this as a stand alone situation because there are other components to consider than just Jones’ career.
Fingering the UFC for spreading themselves too thin isn’t entirely fair; they had a fight on the table to keep things moving forward, and whether he should have taken it or not, Jones opted to pass.
According to White, the light heavyweight champion was made aware of the ramifications of such a decision, and still made the choice he made.
While it is his to make and he doesn’t owe it to anyone to take a high risk/low reward match-up on short notice, let’s not pretend there weren’t multiple ways to still keep UFC 151 alive in all this.
Secondly, as we’ve seen with both Machida and Rua choosing to pass on fighting Jones next month in Toronto as well, it’s not as easy as saying, “Well, if they had guys who could step up…” and calling it a night.
To the best of my knowledge, both Machida and Rua are physically capable of stepping up; they’re just not so inclined, and that’s not something you can blame on the UFC.
Even if they had a dozen light heavyweights kicking around this week, there is no guarantee that (1) any of them would have accepted this opening or (2) Jones would have agreed to fight them.
For the record, I think you could have offered Jones a bout with the a fresh out of retirement Matt Hamill at UFC 151 and he would have turned it down.
He was prepared to face Henderson, and when those plans changed, his participation in UFC 151 came to a screeching halt.
That being said, I think the UFC’s decision to cancel the show completely rather than press forward without a main event is the big acknowledgement that they know there is a need to get back to loading up pay-per-view cards to the best of their abilities.
We’ve all watched Dana White trying to sell a piece of glass as a precious gem in the past, but there was none of that here.
Once Jones was out, they knew they needed to cut their losses and start focusing on the next card.
By the way, those losses are going to be sizeable, and I believe that any argument in favour of Jones being faultless for making the decision that is best for him from a business standpoint absolves White of any criticism for lashing out at the light heavyweight champion (and his team) in the wake of this.
The UFC will lose a lot of money from the cancellation of this event.
If Jones gets a pass for doing what is best for him, you’re damn right I think Dana White can be pissed off about losing millions and millions of dollars.
While I don’t think we’re going to see a reduction in the number of events the UFC holds as a result of this situation, I do think more of those great fights that keep landing on free television are going to cost you money to watch in 2013.
The major FOX events will likely remain star-studded, but don’t be surprised if the events on the other outlets feature even fewer recognizable names in the future.
People can argue and debate who is more to blame all they want; I’m way too tired and in no way interested in engaging in that time-wasting activity.
The bottom line is that Thursday sucked, and there is plenty of blame to go around. Rather than point fingers, I say we just start moving on.
Who’s with me?
Follow E. Spencer Kyte on Twitter (@spencerkyte).
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