To fight or not to fight…
Next Saturday on September 1st, 2012 the UFC had scheduled a main event featuring the Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones against Dan Henderson. A few days ago it was revealed that Dan Henderson has suffered damage to his knee which would make it impossible for him to engage in a professional fight, so Henderson had to pull out. It was also revealed that the same day, the UFC had contacted Chael Sonnen to replace Henderson on a short 8 days notice in an effort to keep the event intact. The only problem was that the one thing happened that they didn’t expect, the one thing that had never happened before…a fighter, a champion turned down the fight. Jon Jones turned down the opportunity to fight Chael Sonnen on 8 days notice. Enraging Dana White and bringing on the ire on many a UFC fan and other fighters.
Now we have a majority of the Mixed Martial Arts world criticizing Jones for not taking a fighter, he is being called a golden boy, entitled, a bitch, and selfish. People are blaming him for the event being cancelled, but I just don’t see how it is his fault. The fact is in the UFC that only the top fighters get paid the big purses and many on the under card get crumbs. The pay disparity in the UFC is very much like that in the United States overall, a few big earners at the top and a bunch on a lower rung making crumbs. Now, Dana White, Chael Sonnen, and other fighters have criticized Jones by saying that he should have taken the fight to help promote the industry and by not doing so he is forcing them to cancel an entire event which in turn means that around 20 other fighters on the under card won’t get paid.
First of all, the UFC doesn’t need any help promoting or growing, anyone with half a brain knows that they are a billion dollar industry and are in no need for charity from their fighters. Second, Jones not taking the fight doesn’t force them to cancel the entire event, that was a decision made by Dana White and the UFC brass, not by Jones. Yes, it does severely hinder their opportunity to put a championship fight on the card, but I just don’t see how that is Jones’ problem. And third, why is it Jones fault or problem to make sure other fighters get paid? He didn’t cause Henderson’s knee to give out, nor did he cancel the event, those were things out of his control. I just don’t see why it is his problem to make sure others get paid, it seems like making sure fighters get paid is the problem of the business, the UFC. Dana White in the face of criticism has always maintained that he takes care of his fighters. Well, here is his chance, he should pay the fighters on the under card that he cancelled and stop trying to pass the buck on to Jones who has no interest in any other fight except the one in which he is performing in.
Now, let further make my point by saying that I don’t have a problem with Jon Jones turning down a fight in which he is the only person carrying any risk. Chael Sonnen would have you believe that Jones refused to fight him on 8 days notice because he is afraid of Sonnen and is running like a chicken. This proposition is simply the obnoxious ramblings of a guy with nothing to lose. The fact is that Jon Jones in almost all likelihood would destroy Chael Sonnen, and when they fight in the future and you better believe they will; don’t forget I told you so. But, why is it that in this specific scenario where the fight must go on in 8 days notice, that Jones carries almost all the risk and would likely receive little reward for that risk.
Let me explain. Jones is the UFC light heavyweight champion. He has dominated his weight class for the better part of three years, he has beaten every contender except for Dan Henderson (whom he has yet to fight), which is the reason Henderson was slated to fight him on September 1st. After Henderson there literally is no one left in the weight class that he hasn’t beaten, any other fight would be a rematch. This is the reason Dana White had to go out of the weight class to find him an opponent in Chael Sonnen. In this situation Jon Jones did a simple cost benefit analysis to decide what would be the best thing for his career. I’ll present the scenarios and you decide which is the most attractive…(none of them are entirely attractive, he kind of got a raw deal here).
First scenario, he takes the fight against Sonnen (who is moving up a weight class and taking the fight without any training time) and he beats Sonnen. He keeps his UFC title, but no one really regards the fight very highly because Sonnen was just being a sport and took the fight on short notice and people speculate as to what would happen if Sonnen would have had full notice.
Second, he takes the fight against Sonnen and Sonnen wins. Well that doesn’t look too good on Jones record, losing a fight to a guy who is moving up a weight class and fighting you on short notice. In fact it looks horrible.
Third, Jones decides not to fight on such short notice (the scenario he chose) and accepts the backlash from the UFC and the fans. The cost benefit analysis is this, will he tarnish his reputation more by taking a fight and losing or not taking the fight right now and looking like a bitch. I submit to you that the looking like a bitch will go away once he fights Sonnen and destroys him; the loss on his record stays there permanently.
Sonnen has absolutely nothing to lose in this situation. He gets paid to fight Jones, if he loses he doesn’t suffer too much harm because he was just manning up and taking a short fight, and if he wins he gets a huge reputation boost by beating a guy on short notice while moving up a weight class. Why wouldn’t Sonnen take this fight, it’s a no brainer for someone in his situation. Especially when you consider that Sonnen just got his ass beat twice in a row by Anderson Silva, which means that it will be a long time before he gets a chance to fight for the title in his own weight class. His best bet is to move up or down.
The UFC has also nothing to lose in this situation. If Jones wins, they keep their golden boy who they have been promoting as such for two years and he fights Henderson in January. If Jones loses then they have created a new rivalry in the light heavyweight class (they don’t currently have a rivalry there because Jones has destroyed everyone) and Jones and Sonnen fight again in December/ January and all parties make a bunch of money.
Looking at this situation, I don’t know what the right course of action is, maybe Jones should have taken the fight. The way I see it he was in a potentially lose-lose situation while all other parties were in a win-win situation. The UFC and Dana White would like you to believe that he has an obligation to take this fight, but I firmly submit to you that he does not. Especially after watching the actions and listening to the words of Dana White over the past two days. Why on Earth does Jones owe anything to the UFC? This is the entity that promoted the hell out of him to make a bunch of money when they could control him and now that he makes a decision that they don’t like, one that is beneficial to him, they are blasting him with criticism. Doesn’t sound too kosher to me. So Jones will fight Vitor Belfort on the 22nd. He will fight Henderson in December/January and all the while Sonnen will probably be running his mouth about Jones being afraid. Ultimately building up to a big time show down next year between Jones and Sonnen, this will make Jones, Sonnen, and the UFC a lot of money. So, for the time being Jones looks bad but that will pass and he will continue destroying opponents in short order.