Jon Jones Refuses to Fight Chael Sonnen, Causing Cancellation of #UFC151

Posted: August 24, 2012 in MMA, UFC
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

By now, you all know that Dan Henderson had to pull out of his fight against Jon Jones due to a torn ACL, and Jones refused to accept Chael Sonnen as a replacement fighter. The net result is that Zuffa cancelled UFC 151, the first card Zuffa has ever had to cancel. I feel somewhat silly for weighing in on this topic because you’ve all read more about it than you’ll ever need to read. Hopefully, I’ll provide a slightly different perspective than what you’ve heard already.

Those that have been reading this blog for some time might expect me to take Jon Jones’s side in this discussion. I’m on the record (here and on Fight Fans Radio) as saying that a fighter’s first responsibility is to win fights, and his second responsibility is to make me, as a fan, happy. Therefore, when Tim Boetsch fights a boring but smart fight against Hector Lombard, I’m not the one booing. Tim was being smart, placing his career over his ego. If a fighter turns down a fight because he doesn’t have enough time to prepare, I also don’t have a problem with that. I thought Rick Story was incredibly reckless in taking fight against Nate Marquardt less than a month after a brutal fight against Thiago Alves, and following through even when that fight’s opponent was changed (to Charlie Brenneman) less than 24 hours before the fight. We all admire his guts, but he might have lost a title shot as a result, and he hasn’t been back in the mix since. A fighter should be smart, and I won’t criticize their smart decisions.

This is different on several levels.

First, Jon Jones was ready to fight. He wasn’t exhausted or beaten to a pulp from a recent fight. He’s had plenty of time off, and then started training for Dan Henderson.

Second, Chael Sonnen would have represented the same type of challenge as Dan Henderson, only weaker. Jones was ready to fight a wrestler with a heavy right hand. Chael Sonnen is a wrestler who’s got very active hands (e.g., he’s #7 all-time for total strikes landed). However, Sonnen doesn’t have Henderson’s knockout power or technique, Sonnen has been sitting on his couch for the past several weeks since fighting Anderson Silva, and Sonnen would be changing weight class. The only thing going for Sonnen is that Henderson is left handed and Sonnen is right-handed, which would require an adjustment by Jones. Nevertheless, if anyone shouldn’t be willing to participate in this fight, it’s Sonnen. Regardless of what you think about Sonnen’s chances against Jon Jones, he had much less a chance of beating Jones under these circumstances.

Third, Jones is the champ, and as the champ, he has an obligation to face all comers. Again, I don’t like that many fans and fighters overstate that argument and require champs to fight on eight day’s notice, but the general principle does apply, and in combination with the other issues I raise here, it’s a fair argument.

Fourth, Jones has publicly rejected the notion of fighting Sonnen because he didn’t earn the shot, but he’s hypocritically showed his reluctance to give Lyoto Machida a rematch because Machida isn’t enough of a financial draw. Very few fighters are a bigger draw than Sonnen. If Jones “is a business man” and is concerned about money above all else, then by his own argument, he should have taken this fight eagerly.

Fifth and finally, there was too much at stake for the light heavyweight champion – someone who represents the company (i.e., Zuffa) – not to step up and take care of the company that took care of him. The entire card was on the line, and all signs point to the assumption that Jones was well-aware of that fact. Because of Jones’s decision, the entire card was cancelled, costing Zuffa a ton of money. Dana White won’t forget that.

Putting It All Together

Those are the ways I see in which Jones’s decision doesn’t make sense, both in terms of what he owes the UFC and in terms of what makes sense for him. Any one of these is forgivable and explainable, but not all five. Not taking the fight was a bad decision. Note also that all of these together certainly cut against the argument that Chael didn’t deserve the title shot. Of course he didn’t deserve the title shot. That’s irrelevant. It’s better to give the fans a card (especially one with a main event they really want to see) than to cancel it.

Of course, what are the consequences? Are you not going to watch Jon Jones’s fights anymore? Sure you will; you’ll just root against him now, but that costs you the same amount of money as rooting for him would. Any guy that drives a Bentley has enough money that he doesn’t care a bit what you think, especially if you’re still willing to throw even more money his way. He won’t suffer for this decision in the near future, but if he makes another mistake, I don’t think Zuffa will be there to watch his back. On the other hand, when his career is on the decline and he’s taking the next step in his career, I’m doubtful Zuffa will be an option. Zuffa is notorious for showing loyalty to those that it likes, even if they’re terrible at their jobs (e.g., Mike Goldberg, Bruce Buffer) or occasionally go bat-guano insane (e.g., Quinton Jackson, Forrest Griffith). That’s quite an ace in the hole, and Jones is throwing it in the garbage.

If he were the smart business man he claims to be, he’d focus on that big picture.

Follow me on Twitter @MMADork
Follow Jon “Bones” Jones on Twitter @JonnyBones
Follow Chael Sonnen on Twitter @SonnenCh
Follow the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Twitter @UFC
Follow Dana White on Twitter @DanaWhite

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