Just When You Thought Things Couldn't Get Any Stranger!!!! They Do!!
When I went to bed last night I was under the belief that things couldn’t get any crazier. When I woke up I realized I was clearly wrong. After yesterday’s events centering around Dan Henderson’s injury, Jon Jones refusal to fight Chael Sonnen on eight days notice and the complete cancellation of UFC 151, I thought I had seen it all. Overnight, news broke that Lyoto Machida had turned down the rematch with Jones at UFC 152 (Renamed UFC 151?) and middleweight Vitor Belfort has stepped up to the plate and accepted a shot at the light heavyweight championship on September 22nd in Toronto! If your head is spinning don’t worry because you are not the only one.
Before I even get into my opinions on whether I believe Jones was wrong or right for refusing to fight Sonnen, I have to commend The American Gangsta and The Phenom for answering the call and accepting a huge challenge. Both men have been competing at 185lbs. for many years now and not only would they be moving up in weight they offered to take on a man many consider to be one of the best fighters the sport has ever seen. That is the true definition of Ultimate Fighting. Anderson Silva also deserves some credit as he told UFC President Dana White that he would face another light heavyweight next week in an attempt to save the card.
Ok, with all that aside, I am in utter disbelief that Jones turned down the fight with Sonnen. He blew an opportunity to show the fans a side of him that people have called into question; his heart and love for this business. For a man who never seems to be lacking in confidence he didn’t show any by refusing to fight a man who hasn’t fought as a light heavyweight in nearly seven years. Jones talks about money! The fans would’ve paid an arm and a leg to see this fight go down. If anyone could sell a fight in 8 days it is Chael Sonnen. Now Jones has turned Sonnen into a cult hero and has the fans, media and his fellow fighters pissed off at what they perceive to be a selfish move on his part.
I spoke to Dan Hardy last night and he offered his opinion on whether or not Jones should have turned down the fight and who is ultimately responsible for cancelling the card.
““Myself and Jon Jones are very different people and I’m very proud to say that as well,” Hardy told BJPenn.com “From his point of view I can see why he would turn down the fight. Chael Sonnen in my opinion doesn’t deserve a title shot in his first fight in the weight class. He needs to win a couple of fights first. He hasn’t really earned a shot, there’s nothing for Jones to gain out of it. He’s fully in his rights to turn down the fight, it’s disappointing obviously, the fans want to see the fight, but these things happen. He doesn’t have enough time to alter his game plan as the last week is about cutting weight and resting. I also don’t think it’s his responsibility to make the sure the event goes on. The UFC needs to make sure these events are balanced enough so if we do lose a big fight there are still alternatives and that the other fighters will still get paid.”
The undercard fighters who have lost a paycheck are the ones I feel for. They have families to feed, coaches to pay and they don’t have seven figure endorsement deals to fall back on, but like Hardy said that responsibility can’t fall squarely on the shoulders of Jon Jones. The UFC was banking on this one fight to sell a pay-per-view and while there were some exciting match-ups scheduled, they weren’t strong enough to influence fans to spend $50 on this event. Even the co-main event which can usually be counted upon to have name value and/or title implications offered fans very little.
Jake Ellenberger is fun to watch, but he isn’t a big enough star yet and matching him up with Jay Hieron, a man known for his less than thrilling fights was a huge mistake. Once Koscheck got injured I knew that this card was in trouble. People pay to see Koscheck win or get beat up, he has that type of value, plain and simple. When you have Dennis Siver vs. Eddie Yagin, Dennis Hallman vs. Thiago Tavares and John Lineker vs. Yasuhiro Urushitani rounding out your main card you are asking for trouble. Those bouts are better served on an FX or Fuel TV card.
Yesterday history was made, but for all the wrong reasons. For the first time since Zuffa purchased the UFC an event has been cancelled. For the first time a reigning champion has turned down a fight and for the first time a fighter who has been competing in one weight class will get a title shot in their reintroduction to a new weight class. Kudos to Belfort, Silva and Sonnen, three middleweights who were willing to move up to help save the day for the company they work for. I am not going to bash Jones, enough people are doing that, I am disappointed, but there is enough negativity going around.
I’d like to end this on a positive note if I may. UFC welterweight Dan Miller and his family received some fantastic news yesterday regarding their son Daniel who has a very rare kidney disorder called Polycystic Kidney Disease. Miller was scheduled to face Sean Pierson next month at UFC 151(152), but was forced to withdraw because Daniel will finally receive the kidney transplant he needs next month. I spoke to Dan yesterday before he got the news and he discussed how involved the treatment is for his son and the fact that it costs over $10k a month. This is the type of news I like to hear and focus on. Best of luck to the Millers and they will be in my prayers.