What just happened? Seriously, I ask you, what just happened? Thursday morning Jon Jones was set to fight Dan Henderson at UFC 151. Yet by the end of the night we'd rifled through random cards with Chael Sonnen, Lyoto Machida, Chris Weidman and even Anderson Silva (!), UFC 151 didn't even exist, and somehow middleweight-since-2008 Vitor Belfort ended up clutching a golden ticket to fight Jones for the light heavyweight title at UFC 152. Now if that isn't one of the craziest non-fight days in MMA history, then I don't know what is.
But the most ridiculous storyline? The one getting lost in all this soap opera drama? UFC President Dana White threw his biggest star, the gravy train of his promotion for the next 10 years, under the bus with unfathomable force, in the most public way possible.
While Jones may have been the primary catalyst to the cancellation of UFC 151, he didn't actually make the executive decision to cancel it. That fell to White and the rest of the UFC officials. But you wouldn't know it if you just read a sampling of these White quotes from the UFC 151 conference call and the scathing P.R. release that followed:
"Jon Jones is a guy a lot of fans don't like, and I don't think this is going to make him any more popular. Lorenzo Fertitta and I are disgusted with Jon Jones and Greg Jackson."
"I don't know why a guy who is a world champion and considered by many the pound for pound best wouldn't fight anybody. It's baffling to me. I've never seen it by anyone else."
"I'll go on the record saying [Jackson] is a f--king sport-killer. This guy is from another planet. I've never even seen anything like it in my life."
(When asked how this changes his relationship with Jones) "A lot."
"This is one of the most selfish, disgusting decisions that doesn't just affect you. This is affecting 16 other lives, their families, kids are going back to school. The list goes on and on of all the things, the money that was spent for fighters to train and the list goes on and on. Like I said, I don't think this is going to make Jon Jones popular with the fans, sponsors, cable distributors, television network executives or other fighters."
"Sure, Jon Jones is rich what does he care if he cancels the fight? But 20 other fighters on the card added up to almost a half a million dollars in purse money that Jones and Greg Jackson's decision stole from them. No champion or headliner in UFC history has ever done that."
"Let me tell you what. I always laugh when I hear a fighter say, ‘I'm a businessman.' No you're not. You're a fighter. You see moves like this and other things where if they were real businessmen, we wouldn't be having this conference call right now."
"UFC 151 will be remembered as the event Jon Jones and Greg Jackson murdered."
Wow. And that actually seems tamer in writing than it did in reality.
Jones may have made a highly, highly questionable decision, but if you were him waking up this morning, how could you possibly feel about your relationship with your bosses?
7 MUST-READ STORIES
Hendo injured, UFC 151 canceled, Machida off, Jones-Belfort added to UFC 152. Disaster struck the UFC on Thursday afternoon, as an MCL tear in Dan Henderson's knee forced his withdrawal from UFC 151's main event. Chael Sonnen was the only fighter willing to accept a replacement bout against Jon Jones on eight days notice, however Jones rejected the fight, and subsequently, UFC 151 was canceled. Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida was then tapped as the headlining match of UFC 152, but later in the night Machida turned down the title shot, eventually being replaced by mid-level middleweight contender Vitor Belfort.
Majority of pro fighters outraged at Jones. Regarding Jones' decision to spurn a bout with Sonnen, the level of vitriol spewed from fans was nothing when compared to flood of hatred let loose by the champ's fellow fighters.
Audio: Dana White throws Jones under bus on media call. UFC President Dana White essentially threw Jones and his trainer, Greg Jackson, under the bus throughout the UFC 151 media conference call, at one point saying he was "disgusted" with Jones' selfishness, while referring to Jackson as "a f--king sport killer."
Silva nearly saved card. Apparently UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva volunteered at the last second to step in and fight a random light heavyweight for the main event of UFC 151. Unfortunately, the offer came after UFC officials had already begun the process of dismantling the card.
Weidman says he volunteered to fight Jones. Much to the surprise of UFC matchmaker Joe Silva, middleweight contender Chris Weidman volunteered to fill in and fight Jon Jones on eight days notice at UFC 151. Silva was simultaneously "shocked" and interested in the idea, however it never came to fruition.
Sonnen makes media rounds, has field day. As expected, Chael Sonnen had a field day with Jon Jones' decision. Sonnen hit the media circuit throughout the evening, at various points calling Jones a delusional brat and saying his Nike slogan should be 'Just Do Nothing.'
Ellenberger-Heiron moved to UFC on FX 5. In light of the cancellation, UFC 151's co-main event -- Jake Ellenberger vs. Jay Heiron -- was shifted to the co-main event of UFC on FX 5, which takes place October 5 in Minneapolis.
I know we already linked to it up there, but if you glossed over this, yesterday's UFC 151 conference call is really worth a listen. Nothing but Dana White slowly going more and more ballistic. Remarkable stuff.
While Jon Jones sat in a puzzling, self-enforced silence, Chael Sonnen was more than happy to let his feelings be known on SportsCenter.
In a bizarre twist of circumstances, Greg Jackson appeared on 'The MMA Show' with Mauro Ranallo at the exact same time Dana White was hurling him headfirst under a bus and calling him a "f--king sport killer" on the UFC 151 conference call. Needless to say, the tone of this interview is enthralling given the climate at the time.
In the midst of the fallout, our own Luke Thomas sat down with Bloody Elbow's Nate Wilcox to try to unravel what exactly just happened and who could be to blame for such a monumental failure. For more, subscribe to the MMA Nation YouTube channel.
The new UFC 152 poster, which of course became completely irrelevant within hours of being released:
And Zombie Prophet was able to dig up this old Jon Jones tweet from 2010. Just an interesting tidbit to see in retrospect, given the ridiculous level of venom he's receiving right now.
REST OF THE UFC 151 CARD IS NOT HAPPY
Charlie Brenneman (@SpaniardMMA) August 23, 2012
Just heard the news. I got flights, hotels, tons of stuff I have 2 take care of. Just finished my last hard practice. Hope it's not true.— Shane Roller (@shaneroller) August 23, 2012
— Dennis Hallman (@DennisHallman) August 23, 2012
@tavaresmma man this sucks! What a sad day for MMA
Wait am I not fighting?? Please say it ain't so I got bills to pay— Jeff Hougland (@JeffHougland) August 23, 2012
— Jeff Hougland (@JeffHougland) August 23, 2012
@jonnybones Can I at least get one of your new Nike T-shirts? I'll give it to my kid since I won't have any money for her school clothes.
Danny Castillo (@lastcall155) August 23, 2012
Who got $50 I can borrow till my next fight?;)— Danny Castillo (@lastcall155) August 23, 2012
The news of UFC 151 cancelled is heartbreaking!!! Trying to stay positive that its Gods plan & not mine!!! Jon Jones is selfish For that!!!— Abel Trujillo (@AbelTrujillo1) August 23, 2012
Kyle Noke (@KyleNoke) August 23, 2012
Henry Martinez (@HenryMartinez83) August 23, 2012
Not only am out a paycheck I pay $1300 for my family 2 come 2 my fight now Delta Airlines will not change their flights except for $800 more— Henry Martinez (@HenryMartinez83) August 23, 2012
IN DEFENSE OF THE CHAMPION
For all the ppl who don't understand the SPORT of MMA (— Benson Henderson (@BensonHenderson) August 23, 2012
@ufc)...ask an NFL team to play the Superbowl vs a not worthy opponent...
Screw u guys calling him selfish man. I can’t stand fans. Of course he’s selfish. Who’s gonna take care of his shit if he doesn’t. You?— Jason High (@KCBanditMMA) August 23, 2012
— King Mo (@KingMoFH) August 23, 2012
@jonnybones is smart....its a business. Dont knock him for his decision. Yall aint in his shoes!!! U dont see it in big boxing events.
U guys need to give— Tito Ortiz (@titoortiz) August 24, 2012
@jonnybones a break. You can't judge if you don't know the whole truth.
REACTION FROM HENDO
I posted a statement on my fb page. po.st/dpi97eThank you again for the support and I am truly sorry for the disappointment.— Dan Henderson (@danhendo) August 23, 2012
THE FINAL OUTCOME
I will fight jones I want to thank he`s camping and him to accept this big challenge for me I am so happy to deliv... twitplus.co.uk/t/bl0— Vitor Belfort (@vitorbelfort) August 24, 2012
Announced yesterday (Thursday, August 23, 2012):
- UFC 151 canceled, all 11 bouts off
- UFC 152: Jon Jones (16-1) vs. Vitor Belfort (21-9) booked as main event
- UFC 152: Charlie Brenneman (15-4) vs. Kyle Noke (19-6-1) transferred to undercard
- UFC on FX 5: Jake Ellenberger (27-6) vs. Jay Heiron (23-5) transferred to co-main event
- UFC on FX 5: Shane Roller (11-6) vs. Jacob Volkmann (14-3) transferred to undercard
- UFC on FX 5: Danny Castillo (14-4) vs. Michael Johnson (11-6) transferred to undercard
FANPOST OF THE DAY
Today's Fanpost of the Day sees Patrick Wyman try to err on the side of logic in this whole debacle: Jon Jones Made a Mistake: On "Business" and the Future of the UFC
Jones is 25 years old, and hasn't even entered his athletic prime. If all goes according to plan, he should be fighting in the UFC for another ten years, making Anderson Silva money the entire time. What's essential to that plan, however, is building and maintaining a solid relationship with the UFC and the consumers. Let me be absolutely clear about this at the outset: Jon Jones is absolutely nothing without the UFC. Ok, maybe not nothing - he'd still be the best light heavyweight, and possibly future heavyweight, on the planet. His future earning potential without the UFC, however, is drastically lessened: could he go to One FC and fight in Asia? Canada and the MFC? Jungle Fight? BAMMA? Bellator? Riiiiiiiight. You don't make Anderson Silva money fighting Babalu in Singapore or Attila Vegh at the Foxwoods Casino. You make better than Anderson Silva money fighting Junior Dos Santos at Cowboys Stadium on New Year's Eve in 2013.
Jones' future - his brand, if you want to be all business-y about it - hinges on the future success of the UFC, and that's where Jones screwed up. It's not his responsibility to book fight cards or worry about the Fox deal, but it is his responsibility to surround himself with people who are capable of thinking about those things and helping him make important decisions; I leave it to the august minds of the BE community to decide whether Kawa and Jones' other management fit that description.
By now, it should be clear that watered-down cards are a product of the UFC's rapid expansion, itself the result of the Fox deal. There simply isn't enough name value out there to both put on stacked cards and meet their obligations to Fox and PPV: this would still be true, though less so, if injuries hadn't been such a problem and Overeem/Diaz weren't suspended for the better part of the year. In the best-case scenario, Cruz headlines a PPV or two (and then gets blasted for not drawing), GSP would fight twice, and Diaz unsurprisingly (to everyone other than 209 fans) does worse numbers than expected. In hindsight, we should have expected this, but the afterglow of the Fox deal - "look, guys, it's a real sport!" - blinded us to the harsh realities of a small company having to adjust to operating in something resembling the actual spotlight that major sports face.
The UFC was depending on Jones to carry them through this tough period of adjustment. That's not a one-way street: by acting as the temporary face of MMA, massive financial and exposure benefits accrue to Jones, the kind of name value on which stars in combat sports depend. That's the kind of name value that will carry him through the next decade of his career, and it creates the kind of goodwill with his employer that would carry him through the totally hypothetical situation in which he runs a Bentley into a telephone pole while driving with two women who aren't his fiancee, or a situation in which he's out for more than a year with an injury, and needs a tune-up fight rather than facing a hungry young contender immediately. I could continue, but there are innumerable scenarios in which a solid relationship with White and the Fertittas could help Jones in the future.
More important, however, is the fact that the UFC isn't some unstoppable ATM that belches out stacks of hundred-dollar bills for Jon Jones' use. Canceling a PPV has very real consequences: first, it further strains the UFC's relationship with its fans, who have shelled out money for sub-par PPVs all year, and who knows what the impact will be with those who were unfortunate enough to have purchased flights and booked hotel rooms in Vegas for Labor Day weekend. Second, it costs the UFC money it can ill afford to lose: half a million in fighter pay alone for this lost card, according to some estimates, along with (I'd imagine) a substantial cancellation fee to be paid to the Mandalay Event Center, and that's without even mentioning the lost revenues. Finally, it damages the UFC's relationship with event venues: will the Mandalay really be eager to do business with the UFC again, knowing that the last canceled event cost them a pretty penny in concessions, booked rooms, and gambling revenues? I doubt it. It isn't inevitable that the UFC continues to succeed, and Jones needs the UFC as much as it needs him.
This is one event, and it's not the end of the world. With that said, the UFC's future success, and that of Jon Jones, is a great deal more tenuous than it appears at first glance. It is, in fact, in Jones' best "business" interest to take one for the team by fighting a likely 6:1 or 7:1 underdog without a full camp who also happens to be moving up a weight class. He could be the superstar who carried the UFC on his back while it was making its way through a tough adjustment period. He could be Dana White's golden boy, a company man to be supported through thick and thin. Instead, he's the guy Chael Sonnen mocked on SportsCenter because his management was dumb enough to turn down an interview.
Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me on Twitter @shaunalshatti and we'll include it in tomorrow's column.