No Bones versus Sonnen!

Why True MMA & UFC Fans Must Boycott UFC 159

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) rightfully prides itself in giving fans the fights they want to see, but also on scheduling fights that make sense. Joe Silva does a fantastic job of matching opponents in meaningful or, at minimum, exciting fights. Add to that Dana White’s sincere intention to listen to the fans and UFC fights tend to consistently be both: meaningful and exciting.

Given Joe Silva’s matchmaking gifts and Dana White’s promoting acumen, it is surprising to see the light heavyweight championship fight between Jon "Bones" Jones and Chael Sonnen headline UFC 159 this coming Saturday, April 27th, 2013. In fact, it is downright disappointing that the fight has been booked at all – at least at this point in time.

Sonnen is undeniably an elite, excellent fighter; anyone with doubts about it must not have seen him dominate the arguably best fighter in the world of all times, pound-for-pound, Anderson Silva for 5 ½ rounds over the course of two separate middleweight championship bouts. True, he did lose both fights definitively in the end, but not without taking "The Spider" to deep waters, forcing the champion to prove that, beyond all his well-known gifts, he also had heart.

Nevertheless, those feats do not make Sonnen the top contender at light heavyweight. In fact, they do not even qualify him as a contender – top or not – in that weight class, at all. When was the last time Sonnen fought (and won) at light heavyweight? The exact date and time do not matter, even if they do indeed exist.

Had it happened, as originally conceived, because of Dan Henderson’s injury and UFC 151’s subsequent cancelation, the match would have made good enough sense. Had Sonnen, not Belfort, fought Jones for the title at UFC 152, the bout might have made even more sense. More importantly, had Sonnen won a significant fight at light heavy recently, the booking would make complete sense, especially given Sonnen’s notable gifts selling a fight.

But now, almost 8 months after the demise of UFC 151, the fight does not make any sense. For indirect proof that even the UFC knows this, one need not look any further than the recently concluded season 17 of the Ultimate Fighter, which clearly served as a conduit to generate fan interest in a manufactured rivalry between the coaches.

The UFC has done a magnificent job fostering the growth of this beautiful sport of mixed martial arts, all along pleasing the fans. Part of the success has been a willingness to treat loyal fans as knowledgeable and intelligent, including in cases such as the recent welterweight championship fight between Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz – where Diaz might not have rightfully earned top contender status, but at least everyone understood there was unfinished business between the champion and the challenger.

Not this time, however.

UFC President Dana White has made it clear that he does not care for audiences who do not respect MMA fighters and their fights. And he is right: fighters sacrifice their lives to put on an entertaining show; they do not deserve to be booed by ignorant audiences.

By the same token, loyal MMA fans deserve respect from fight promoters. Many MMA fans either attend or watch events religiously. They deserve meaningful matches, especially when giving up part of their hard-earned wages for pay-per-view events.

And this may be considered purist, but shouldn’t championship fights mean something?

The championship fight between Jones and Sonnen does not. That is why I plan on doing something I have never done: positively avoid a UFC event. Other true MMA and UFC fans must do the same and boycott UFC 159.

Should a critical mass do that, the UFC will surely go back to doing what it normally does – listen to the fans.

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