Jon Jones successfully defended his light heavyweight title against Dominick Reyes in Saturday’s main event at Toyota Center in Houston, but the unanimous decision nod wasn’t convincing to a vocal portion of the crowd who booed the judges’ call and the social media reaction was divisive, to say the least.
What made the result even more stunning was the lone 49-46 score submitted by judge Joe Solis, a verdict that seemed to ignore the success Reyes had putting the pressure on the champion early in the fight.
At the evening’s post-fight press conference, White acknowledged the dissenting scores, which was unavoidable given that he’s been hearing it from all sides since they were read.
“The scoring was all over the map,” White said. “Joe Silva—the former matchmaker here—had it a draw. (Yahoo! Sports writer) Kevin Iole hit me up and he had Jones 3-to-2. Going into the last round I had Dominick Reyes 3-to-1 going into the last round. My kids are terrorizing me that ‘the fix is in’ and ‘how can this happen, dad? Reyes won that fight’ and the list goes on and on of people that are reaching out to me. So it’s not like there’s this landslide of people saying there was a robbery or whatever. People have it all over the place.
“But the reality is? Who gives a s*it? We’re not judges. None of us are judges. The judges call the fight and that’s that. As far as the judging and the reffing tonight, do I think it was perfect? I do not. I think that we need to do some work down here.”
White emphasized the need for education and improvement after seeing not only the judging in the Jones-Reyes fight, but how the entire evening was handled. All in all, four of the night’s fights went to a split decision, which was one short of the UFC record for an event. And some of those decisions included some truly befuddling individual scores.
Still, White’s focus was on the competitiveness of the fight and he asked that critics stop spinning their wheels when it comes to talking about the judges.
“First of all, the powers that be and the commission have to realize that there were mistakes made and these things are gonna happen,” White said. “Nothing’s perfect, no commission is perfect, no state is perfect. It’s just something we have to work on.
“But in the Reyes fight, like I said, it was so all over the map. I talked to a few guys tonight, they were like, you can’t run the last two rounds and then take the title away from the champion. So you have people that think a lot of different ways on how they score a fight, but we’re not judges, you know?”
“When these guys go out, Dominick Reyes is fighting Jon Jones, and Jon Jones is fighting Dominick Reyes, and they’re both fighting the judges too,” White later added. “I don’t know how many more times I can say it. If you think these guys are incapable of judging a fight, then do everything in your power to take it out of their hands.”
Despite the debatable outcome, White felt that both fighters were at their the best. For Jones, this was his 11th successful UFC title defense, tying a company record set by former flyweight king Demetrious Johnson; for Reyes, it was his chance to prove he could hang with a decorated champion like Jones after some questioned his contender candidacy following a narrow split nod over Volkan Oezdemir last March.
White praised Jones’s ability to gut out the win and didn’t rule out a second meeting with Reyes in the future.
“Coming into this fight, my big thing was the only problem with this fight is the general public doesn’t realize how dangerous this guy really is and what a huge threat he is to Jon Jones,” White said. “He was a four-and-a-half-to-one [underdog], which is crazy. There’s no way that guy’s a four-and-a-half-to-one—you saw it tonight. I never talk about fights right after, but first of all—you guys weren’t here, I was just backstage doing interviews—Jon Jones walked by with his legs all wrapped in ice and they carried Dominick Reyes, guys were carrying him. When you see that s*it backstage, you know you just saw an incredible fight.
“Do I think that he deserves a rematch? Sure, he does. But we’ll see what happens. ... Here’s the other thing. Say what you want about Jon Jones. Jon Jones win fights.”
Asked if Reyes has the potential to be a future champion, White answered, “Absolutely.” He also believes that if Reyes had been fighting anybody else, they would have fallen to the shots he landed on Jones.
“Dominick Reyes, tonight was the fourth time that he’s made it out of the first round,” White said. “He knocks people in the first round. Nine people he knocked out in the first round. So as you look at little things that both guys did in this fight, they both fought an unbelievable fight, they both made mistakes in this fight, and I think when they both go home and they start watching tape and they’ll watch this fight over and over and over again, they’re going to get back in the gym and they’re gonna work on things.
“If and when these two fight again, it’ll be even better than tonight. So that’s the positive out of what we saw here this evening. No matter what side of the fence you sit on.”