Most know by now that UFC 151 has been canceled because light-heavyweight challenger Dan Henderson hurt his knee and champion Jon Jones wouldn’t take a fight with Chael Sonnen that would have allowed the event to go on as scheduled.
Jones will now fight Vitor Belfort on September 22 for the light heavyweight title. Both Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua refused the fight because they didn’t believe four weeks was enough time to prepare for Jones.
UFC President Dana White is “stunned” that Jones wouldn’t take the Sonnen fight and can’t believe his light heavyweight “champion wouldn’t step up to fight.”
Yes, Dana White, you’re allowed to be stunned. No champion has ever done that before. Not that situations like this happen that often in the UFC. Nonetheless, Jon Jones was exactly right for refusing the Sonnen fight. Chael Sonnen is beneath him as a fighter. WELL beneath him.
Let’s get this straight: Sonnen loses to Anderson Silva in the 2010 fight of the year, beats Brian Stann and Michael Bisping to get another shot at Silva, loses badly to Silva at UFC 148, decides to move up to light heavyweight, and immediately gets a title shot because apparently he was Dana White’s eighth choice as a replacement for Dan Henderson. It’s amazing how many opportunities one can get just by being the only person to say yes.
In any case, Sonnen is in no way deserving of a title shot in a division he has yet to fight in. Sure, he was a replacement, but the actual fight would have been a joke before it even began, a main event in name only because only one guy deserved to be there.
Worse, White tried to justify the unjustifiable by saying:
“Chael’s been out there talking all this crazy [expletive] about Jones, but he proved that he not only talks the talk, he walks the walk. I offered the fight to a couple of guys, and believe me when I tell you, nobody wants to fight Jon Jones on [short] notice. Nobody. But when I called Chael, that crazy [expletive] said, ‘Not only will I fight him, but I’ll get on a plane and fight him at Mandalay Bay tonight, if that’s what you want.’ “
White actually tried to hype up the matchup as some kind of Silva/Sonnen Lite situation as though Sonnen is anything other than a name and a good promoter in a tough situation.
If Sonnen had somehow won, there is no way he would have looked legitimate as the new light heavyweight champion, and it would have damaged the UFC’s reputation. Sonnen would have looked weak because the obvious conclusion would have been that Jones just didn’t have enough time to prepare.
Had Jones beaten Sonnen, it would have been what everyone expected anyway because Sonnen isn’t in Jones’ league right now. Even a close win for Jones would have been chalked up to lack of preparation. It was absolutely a no-win for the UFC.
So for the President of the UFC to call out the company’s most marketable fighter for not taking whatever random fight the company put in front of him is just plain bad business. There is no reason to embarrass your second-biggest star (behind Anderson Silva and only ahead of Georges St. Pierre because of St. Pierre’s current injury woes) when he agreed to a fight just four weeks after the original. Even the Fertitta brothers basically called Shogun and Machida pansies for refusing to fight Jones on short notice.
I guess it’s common for fight promoters to go heavy on the macho whenever they’re talking to the press. But it’s never a good sign for a company when the only people calling the fighters soft (in so many words) are the guys who don’t fight. Again, just bad business.