Champion to champion: Benson Henderson says Jon Jones got a ‘raw deal’

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

It's inevitable that the one-month stretch from late-August to late-September will be looked back upon as one of the most bizarre stretches in mixed martial arts' short history. And now that the cancellation of UFC 151 and ensuing fallout from UFC 152 is far behind us, the most striking phenomena throughout the whole ordeal remains what took place in the first few hours, when the camaraderie shared amongst fighters crumbled, and nearly every fighter with a Twitter account publicly turned on Jon Jones for daring to reject a short-notice fight against Chael Sonnen.

At the time, it was fascinating, if not surprising, to watch how quickly and utterly widespread the vitriol grew. However, a fellow champion, UFC lightweight king Benson Henderson, was one of the few men to immediately stand behind Jones and defend him.

Even now, Henderson can't believe how few joined his side.

"Jones definitely got a raw deal," he emphasized last week after throwing out the first pitch at a Diamondbacks game. "All of the onus, all of it, was put on his shoulders. Everything. What about the co-main event? What about bringing in other guys? What about the guys getting injured? There was a lot. To place everything on his shoulders, I think, was very unfair. He's fully within his rights to turn down a fight.

"Would he have won? Yeah, he probably would have won. Would it have been a smart decision to make? No, probably not. So I definitely felt bad for him."

While their circumstances may vary, several fighters have been outed for turning down fights since Jones' fateful decision, and none of them have become public enemy No. 1, a fact which Henderson is very aware of.

"Now look at it," Henderson pointed out. "How many guys [are turning down fights?]

"Some guys are turning down fights, short-notice fights, two week's notice fights, eight day's notice fights, five week's notice fights because it's not enough time to fully prepare.

"The rash of guys turning down fights," he continued. "It happened before Jones. It wasn't like it's all of a sudden, it just happens out of nowhere. It happened before Jones decided not to fight Chael Sonnen. There were plenty of guys who turned down fights off short notice. I think just the way it was played up, the way it was built in the media, and by certain people, it made it a very negative connotation, to where, ‘Oh, he turned the fight down. He ruined these fighters' lives. He ruined all the fans and he screwed them over.' I don't think that's really so much the case. Everyone has their part to play. It's not just Jones himself in there, all by himself. It always takes two to dance."

Citing recent examples of Matt Mitrione rejecting a fight against Daniel Cormier and Rashad Evans rejecting a fight against Glover Teixeira, Henderson echoed that he, too, would have made the same decision. Professional fighting may sometimes be haphazardly romanticized as a modern-day gladiatorial battle, but in truth, the ‘professional' part of the phrase makes it a business; a very lucrative one, if you can play your cards right.

Ultimately, Henderson says, that's just what these men were doing.

"That's on them," he concluded. "They're obviously doing what they think is best for their career, best for them. Can't take anything away from that. When it comes to my career, and things I'm going to do that are best for my career, I'm going to do the same thing.

"I definitely don't begrudge anybody for [turning down a fight]. Whatever the case may be. You definitely always have to do what's best for you and your career. Take care of your family, pay the bills."

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