Fightweets: Jon Jones' Tipping Point

Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE

Can you imagine B.J. Penn refusing a main event fight that would save a major pay-per-view show?

Could you picture Randy Couture -- knowing that a card full of fighters spent weeks preparing for their bouts, that those fighters' cornermen and trainers also have paydays coming, and that their friends and families are flying into town for the weekend -- making a selfish last-minute decision which led to an event cancellation?

How about Matt Hughes? Hughes once took a rematch with Penn on three weeks' notice when Georges St-Pierre suffered a training injury heading into their scheduled UFC 63 fight. Then, after Hughes won a grueling three-round battle with Penn, he turned around and took the rescheduled GSP fight seven weeks later. Think Hughes even considered disappointing the 30,000 fans who bought tickets to the events Anaheim and Sacramento?

You know the answer to those questions.

Then there's Jon Jones.

Jones has significantly more natural talent than any of the above fighters. But as of now, the UFC light heavyweight champion doesn't deserve to have his name mentioned in the same breath as the current and future Hall of Famers listed above.

Oh, he's not the first champion to cause the UFC headaches, not by a longshot. Both Couture and Penn were involved in legal battles with the company after winning championships, and both Tito Ortiz and Anderson Silva have made UFC boss Dana White's life miserable.

But when push comes to shove, none of them ever refused to fight a replacement at the last minute and caused an event cancellation.

Jones could have saved UFC 151 when Dan Henderson had to pull out of the fight and Chael Sonnen offered to step up and take the fight. Instead, he basically told thousands of fans who were going to travel to Las Vegas on a holiday weekend specifically to see him fight -- those who are the prime candidates to buy his Nike gear -- that their hard-earned vacation time isn't his concern. Good luck selling them that swoosh.

The UFC isn't blameless in this situation, either. We're about to get to that. So without further ado, on to your questions:

From @animexcom: Despite Dana's rage, do you think it is his right/fair to refuse the fight?

Let's deal with the UFC and Dana's rage first. White seems in willful denial of the notion that the UFC is trying to run too many shows. He doubled down during Thursday's teleconference, going into his standard "we built this thing" speech. Quite simply, someone over on W. Sahara Ave. in Las Vegas needs to burst the boss's bubble and state the obvious: The string of injuries and fight fallouts and the chain-reaction effect they've had on the cards they're presenting to their loyal fan base has become epidemic, and the rigors of the schedule is only making things worse.

In the past month alone, there was the brutal UFC 149 in Calgary, which White himself called one of the worst cards ever; a tremendous free card in UFC on FOX 4; and now the cancellation of a major event. If fans get a lousy show for $50 at UFC 149 and then have a card straight-up cancelled, how long will they keep shelling out PPV money, especially when the UFC is putting better cards on network television for free?

It's not Jones' fault that UFC 151 was scheduled in such a way that if something happened to the main event, they'd have to scrap the show entirely (and as an aside, for all the vitriol White displayed toward Jones and Greg Jackson on Thursday, nothing's stopping Zuffa from paying out show money to everyone on the card, since it was the company's choice to stop the event).

But Jones has another reality to deal with, which is that his enablers have done far more damage to his image than his detractors could ever hope to do. Whether it's the result of the constant fawning treatment he's received over the years by media both MMA and mainstream, the decisions his inner circle has made, or both, somewhere along the way, something caused someone as gifted and charismatic as Jones to lose touch with the pulse of the fan base and start losing the public relations battle.

Even as it was clear the backlash was real, was building, and wasn't simply based on some abstract notion of "haters hating," any and all criticism of Jones was summarily dismissed. Rashad Evans comes out and rips what he calls Jones' insincerity? Must be Rashad's fault. Jones wrecks his Bentley and gets booked on a DUI? Hey, he's young, and we've all made mistakes, so who are you to criticize? Refuse to take a fight with Sonnen? Jones could have headed off the backlash by stepping up, accepting Sonnen, and saving the show. Instead, his decision led to the first official cancellation in Zuffa history, coming on the heels of his legal troubles, and then he was nowhere to be found while Sonnen trashed him on national television. This all suggests Jones is in desperate need of more competent PR advice than he's presently receiving.

@joggybernabe Hey Dave, whether it's 8 days or 8 weeks. I still think JJ would kill CS.

I agree, Jones probably handles Sonnen once the cage door is locked. But for every valid criticism one can make about Sonnen, his competitive fire burns as strong as anyone who's put on a pair of fingerless gloves. He's coming off the highest-profile mixed martial arts loss of the year and he was willing to turn around and take the Jones fight when several established light heavyweights turned the bout down. Chael Sonnen will probably never win a UFC title belt, but you can't question his fighting spirit.

@Kpaff3587 wise decision businesses wise for Jones or is he afraid?

He's not afraid, but he's getting terrible advice. And he seems to contradict himself at every turn. Last week he was trashing Lyoto Machida as his next contender because Machida was his lowest-selling pay-per-view of 2011. And now he turns down Sonnen, who almost undoubtedly would have been a bigger draw, ostensibly to meet Machida? Then, when Machida bizarrely turns down a Sept. 22 bout, Jones agrees to meet a fighter who has been a middleweight for three years, after using Sonnen's lack of wins over light heavyweights as a reason for saying no?

Jones seems to have lost sight of the fact that he isn't bigger than the UFC. Big star? Sure. But where else is he going to make the sort of money he can make in Zuffa? If he makes decisions which damage the brand, he's hurting himself in the long run.

@GCSUballer asks: Did Sonnen really deserve the shot?

Fair question, but at the same time, did Jones really "deserve" a title shot at Mauricio Rua last year? Evans was a former champion with one career loss who had been waiting nearly two years to get his crack at regaining the title, and at the time, Jones was being awarded a shot when his biggest wins were against Ryan Bader and Vladimir Matyushenko.

Jones has obviously since justified getting the shot and then some. But he got his big break specifically because the UFC needed an injury replacement, and barely a year and a half later he wasn't willing to return the favor when another fighter had to pull out. Yes, Rua had six weeks' notice for Jones, which is a far cry from the eight-day turnaround. But it's still a matter of karma and still a matter of giving back to the sport which has handed him so many opportunities, particularly all the fighters who don't have Nike deals who had put in a full camp preparing for Sept. 1.

Featherweight Frankie

@JosiahRenaudin asks: There's all this talk about Edgar moving to 145, but since he walks around at about 160, is Bantamweight an option?

Josiah sent me this question before the former UFC lightweight champion announced that he's dropping down to featherweight, but it's still one worth exploring. Not only was bantamweight an option, but his own boxing coach, Mark Henry, said that it was a route that Edgar should consider.

But let's give Edgar credit. The guy's a warrior. He's old-school. He's never taken the easiest route and he's never going to. He finally hit the wall as an undersized lightweight over the past couple years. But if things work out at 145 pounds, we'll get that other super fight that's been discussed over the past couple years, Edgar vs. Jose Aldo Jr. I'm writing this the day after Jones caused an entire fight card to be canceled, so it makes you appreciate a fighter who will take on the toughest challenges he possibly can all the more.

@Chino_Banks asks: Since Edgar has to fight one fight to get to the title, do you think it will be against the Korean Zombie?

You know what, I've changed my mind about three times since you've asked this one, so I'm going to parse this two different ways: First is that I think Edgar vs. Chan Sung Jung would be an awesome fight. I'd love to see it. That has "potential fight of the year" written all over it. But my second thought is, not right away. The Korean Zombie has earned his title shot with his three straight spectacular wins, capped by his Fight of the Year performance against Dustin Poirier. Jose Aldo Jr. is fighting Eric Koch in October. Assuming he emerges from that unscathed, which seems a reasonable assumption, you could pair up Aldo and Zombie next, while also promoting an Edgar-Chad Mendes bout for Edgar's featherweight debut, then let the chips fall where they may from there.

Submit a question for next week's Fightweets here.

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