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Fight Week! - The Tipping PointPosted on September 4, 2012 at 04:22 PM.
I was going to let this go. I really wasn't going to even talk about UFC 151 aka “The Jon Jones Debacle.” I planned to use this space solely to talk about this weekend’s fight between Andre Ward and Chad Dawson. So I woke up this morning, visited my Twitter page and noticed Ariel Helwani posted a 40-minute interview with Jones. I listened to it and I’ve honestly never encountered a more clueless high-level MMA fighter when it comes to public perception than Jones and that includes people like Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock. That really saddens me.
Let’s go through the interview:
He stated that he’s always been a company guy because he fought four times for the UFC in 2011 and has appeared at every media event they asked him to go to. So basically he is stating that because he did his job in the past (fight and make media appearances), he should be excused for not doing his job and leaving his company in the lurch. His job is to fight. He gets paid for it and gets paid well. Fighting four times in 2011 definitely helped the UFC….but it also helped him. Jones’ notoriety and popularity grew by leaps and bounds during 2011. Lets not act like Jones was doing the UFC or the fans a favor by fighting four times last year.
He constantly referenced how once he knocks Vitor Belfort out at 152, everybody will forget what happened at 151. He seriousl underestimates the memories of MMA fans. They don't forget. Tito Ortiz was booed for years because of his ducking of Chuck Liddell and verbal wars with Dana White. Guys like Michael Bisping and Josh Koscheck will always be booed by a certain segment of the audience because of their behavior. Jones will get the same treatment. Its not like Jones was a fan favorite BEFORE the UFC 151 debacle. I attended UFC 145 and it was about 50/50 when it came to fans cheering or booing him. So to expect that to change just because you knockout a guy EVERYONE expects him to beat is ridiculous.
He also wondered why no one is bashing Lyoto Machida for refusing to take a short notice fight against him at 152 but this is another situation of Jones being self centered and clueless. The difference is that Jones had been preparing to fight on September 1 for several months. He is in fighting shape and hasn't fought since April so he’s fresh. There is a big difference between training for 3 months to fight and changing opponents and starting training for world title fight 3 weeks before the fight. The unspoken rule has always been that you don't have to be the replacement but that you should always accept the replacement. Liddell has done it. Rampage also. You know who else did it? Shogun Rua when he accepted a title fight against Jones on six weeks notice. Now I recognize that six weeks notice is much longer than eight days, but Jones has claimed that he wouldn't have accepted the Sonnen fight under any kind of notice because Sonnen doesn't “deserve” the fight and has no “honor.” With that said, the Jones’ eight day excuse isn’t valid. Previous champions have fought with less time (Tito Ortiz fought Patrick Cote on 7 days notice in a LHW title fight). Top fighters have fought his potential opponent on 8 days notice (Bisping fought Sonnen on 8 day as notice in February.) The timing is the excuse that he has relied on since the day UFC 151 was cancelled but its his the only one.
Jones did make a valid point by stating that Dan Henderson should carry some of the blame for the cancellation. That is true. Henderson knew about his injury three weeks before informing the UFC. Had he told the UFC immediately, alternate plans could’ve been scheduled and Jones would’ve had more than eight days to prepare for a new opponent.
Finally, he talked about the “haters.” He actually used that word to describe the people who have been knocking him for the past two weeks. The people who just wanted to see him fight when he was scheduled to fight. The fighters who just wanted to fight, advance their careers and potentially get win or award bonuses. The word “hater” has been used to describe anyone who utters a negative word about Jones since his career began. The fact is very few of them are actually “haters.”
If you are a fan of the sport, you should want Jones to succeed. He is the first MMA fighter with a major shoe company endorsement, which could open up the door for other fighters. He is one of the most dynamic and exciting fighters in the world and he constantly looks to finish fights. He is one of the fighters I show MMA newcomers when I’m introducing them to the sport. He also could potentially open up MMA to demographic groups (particularly African Americans) who are currently a small segment of the MMA fan base. It just seems like he can’t get out of his own way. Whether it's the DUI arrests, lack of humility or how he’s handled the UFC 151 aftermath, he’s constantly doing things that cause people to dislike him and root against him.
Surprisingly over the past two weeks, I’ve seen people argue that the UFC should carry most of the blame for two reasons. First, the UFC should’ve scheduled a stronger co-main event that could’ve replaced the Jones fight. Second, that the large number of events the UFC is holding in 2012 is the reason why more injuries are occurring and why the UFC is forced to hold weak top-heavy cards. Regarding the first argument, the original co-main event was Josh Koscheck v. Jake Ellenberger. When this fight was booked as the co-main event, no one was complaining about the whether this fight deserved to be the co-main event. It was a fight between a former #1 welterweight contender and a current top 10 welterweight and fell in line with most co-main events we’ve seen over the past few years.
Koscheck injured his back a few weeks ago and due to injuries, drug suspensions and the number of top welterweights scheduled for UFC 154 in November, the best fighter the UFC could find was Jay Hieron. Its not as if the UFC decided to put on a sub-par co-main event (like they did at UFC 145), injuries caused the quality of the co-main event to drop.
The second argument is just as silly. In 2010, the UFC held 23 events and in 2011, the UFC held 26 events. In 2012, the UFC will hold 30 events (28 if you don't count cancelled 151). During that time, the amount of fights cancelled because of injuries skyrocketed and in many fans’ opinions, the cards have become weaker. Many claim that if the UFC dropped to 1 or 2 fights a month, that will lead to more stacked cards and less injuries. There are a number of issues with this argument.
Lets go back to 2010 when there were only 23 events (a little less than two a month). Here is a list of events in 2009 that had the main and/or co-main event changed because of injuries:
UFC 108: Rashad Evans v. Thaigo Silva: Changed from Anderson Silva v. Vitor Belfort and Brock Lesnar v. Shane Carwin.
UFC Fight Night (Maynard v. Diaz): Co-Main changed from Josh Koscheck v. Mike Pierce.
UFC 109: Couture v. Coleman: Changed from Anderson Silva v. Vitor Belfort because of a Silva injury.
UFC 110: Noguiera v. Velasquez: Co-main changed from Akiyama v. Wanderlei Silva to Bisping v. Silva because of injuries.
UFC 112: Anderson Silva v. Demian Maia: Changed from Anderson Silva v. Vitor Belfort because of a Belfort injury.
UFC 114: Rampage v. Evans- Co-Main changed from Forrest Griffin v. Lil Nog because of a Griffin injury.
UFC 115: Liddell v. Franklin: Changed from Liddell v. Tito Ortiz because of an Ortiz injury.
UFC 116: Lesnar v. Carwin: Co-main changed from Akiyama v. Wanderlei Silva to Akiyama v. Chris Leben because of injuries.
UFC Fight Night: Marquardt v. Palhares: Changed from Alan Belcher v. Demian Maia because of a Belcher injury.
UFC 119: Mir v. Cro Cop: Changed from Mir v. Noguiera 2 because of a Nog injury.
So in 2009, 10 of the 23 events held by the UFC had main events or co-main events (6 main events) (43%) were changed because of injuries. Now, according to this great article by Mike Chiappetta of MMA Fighting, (http://www.mmafighting.com/2012/9/3/...by-health-woes) as of September 2012, 8 events this year have had an injury affect a main event (12 if you include co-main events). 12 out of a total of 24 events (50%) but that number could go up or down depending on how the last 5 events go. While its clear that 2012 will have more main events changed because of injuries than 2009, its not clear that scheduling more events is leading to more injuries. What scheduling fewer events guarantees is that fighters are paid less (less revenue generated by the UFC equals smaller paychecks), fight less often and that the sport stops growing.
This is the tipping point, my friends. I’ve had the pleasure of following MMA’s growth since UFC 1. I’ve brought tons of my friends and colleagues to this sport just by touting the things that the UFC offers that boxing doesn't. The fact that there are clearly defined weight classes and champions. That it’s very rare when top fighters don't fight each other (like Pacman and Mayweather). Also, that the UFC never cancels cards no matter what happens.
As the sport grew, I started to see the change coming. Guys like Anderson Silva were dictating who and when title shots took place instead of the UFC. Fighters were openly complaining about whom they were matched up against and outright refusing to fight other fighters in their camp or whom they consider “friends.” Fighters like Jones using the “friend” excuse to refuse to fight other elite fighters like Silva and Junior Dos Santos even though he’s never trained or been in a camp with either of them. Finally, when Jones was quoted a few weeks ago that a Silva superfight would never take place because “they both have so much to lose” when it comes to how a loss would effect their endorsements, I knew we were close to the end.
This is one of the rare sports where the fans actually felt like they had a say in some of the things that happen. If the UFC schedules a main event that fans aren’t interested in, they would flood Dana White’s twitter with their thoughts and within days he changes the fight. In April 2011, UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta asks the fans whether they would like to see a Nick Diaz v. Georges St. Pierre or a Silva v. GSP fight. The fans voted for the Diaz fight and within weeks it’s scheduled. Sure there are many decisions made by the UFC that I (and many fans) disagree with but I’ve always felt that in some ways the fights the fans wants (with the exception of Fedor) tend to happen.
I don't feel that way anymore. The power has shifted to the fighters and if you think that great, I want you to take a look at the barren wasteland that’s called Boxing. No matter how much we scream, yell and demand a Jones/Silva superfight, we will never get it and it has absolutely nothing to do with “scheduling the fight at the right time.” If Dana White announced tonight that if Jones beats Belfort at 152, Silva and Jones will meet in a super fight in Dallas or Toronto or Rio, I guarantee tickets would sell out within a day. The demand is there but we are at a place where the demand doesn't matter anymore. What matters is how much money a fighter can make without taking a significant risk. That's where boxing is and why we may never see Manny and Floyd fight. That's where MMA is going and why soon we will be making the same complaints that boxing fans are.
I’ll be back later this week to discuss Ward v. Dawson. If you have a comment about the blog, post below or tweet me at @aholbert32
BORN: September 25, 1977 (35)
JOINED: Jul 18, 2002 (10 years, 309 days ago)
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