Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
In most respects, Jon Jones has moved past the chaos of UFC 151. He's said his piece, he's signed a contract for his next fight, and he's winding down training for his upcoming light-heavyweight title defense. But it's not completely over. It can't be firmly in his past until he sits down face-to-face with his boss Dana White and they talk things out and shake hands like men.
Since Jones said no to a fight with Chael Sonnen and White canceled UFC 151 on August 23, the two haven't spoken with the exception of what's been said in the press. Those words have been pointed at times, with White saying he was "disgusted" by Jones' decision and Jones firing back that he was being treated "like a piece of meat."
The relationship between the two sides may never be the same, but as Jones approaches his next fight date at UFC 152, he's ready to put the situation behind him. So before he steps into the cage with Vitor Belfort, he plans to step into a room with White.
"You know what? I’m over it," he said on a Tuesday teleconference. "I really am. I'm actually getting more and more excited to talk to Dana and get this behind us. The UFC is an awesome brand but in this situation I had to stand up for myself and do what was right. But at the same time, me holding a personal beef against Dana gets me nowhere. He's still my boss at the end of the day and he has every right to express how he feels. He has freedom of speech.
"I said some things about the way I feel about how Dana handled the situation," he continued." I also think the fans are kind of using their minds a little bit and realizing it truly wasn’t my fault. That I'm not a UFC executive. Dan Henderson got hurt, that's what happened. They asked me to put my livelihood on the line, to put my belt on the line. I turned it down like many smart champions would. Think about it: Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao. If Pacquiao gets hurt, you think he would fight [Miguel] Cotto last minute? No. No one would’ve done it. No one. And the guys who say they would've done it? They're not me, I guess. But anyways, I'm over it. I'm ready to move forward. I think me and Dana being on the same team -- me being on the same team as the UFC and not being one of these nemesis-type athletes -- is going to get us very far. Me as an individual athlete and the UFC in having a mainstream athlete, a guy that's trying to break down walls to mainstream America. I can't do that having a problem with the UFC. So I'm totally over it, ready to talk to Dana and get past this."
Jones said it was a conversation he preferred to have in person rather than on the phone, although White wasn't on the teleconference at the time Jones said it; he abruptly left the call about 20 minutes into it.
But that wasn't before offering his own take on the situation, which wasn't too different from that of Jones.
"One thing you know about me in 12 years, I don't take anything back," White said. "It's not like, 'Oh, I wish we could take it back.' Jon and I haven’t seen each other yet since that whole thing. We’ll see each other in Toronto. Him and I need to get into a room face-to-face and talk. I've been in this business for 12 years and I've dealt with just about everybody you can deal with. Good guys, bad guys, and Jon Jones isn’t a bad guy. So, no, I don't take anything back from what I said, but he and I will get into a room in Toronto and talk face-to-face."
Whether the two leave that meeting in peace remains to be seen, but one thing that seems clear is that Jones is far more at peace with the villainous role that's been ascribed to him by a vocal collection of fans. While he repeatedly insisted he's not a bad guy and prefers not to be thought of as one, he acknowledged that all the attention surrounding him may well benefit UFC 152.
"I think it’s going to be great," he said. "I think a lot of people are going to get together and watch the fight. Vitor is respected amongst many people. He's one of the most famous people to come out of Brazil, athlete-wise. I think that could be somewhat true. So Brazil, I'm sure they're going to tune in. They love him. And americans are going to tune in. He pertains to the old-school generation of martial arts fans and the new-school generation of martial arts fans. And right now, there's a lot of buzz around my name, whether it's good or bad, and between those two factors, a lot of people are going to tune to watch a phenom vs. another phenom."
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