ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Champ Declines To Fight Replacement at UFC 151
Who killed UFC 151?
Jon Jones and Greg Jackson did, an irate UFC President Dana White said Thursday, by refusing to have Jones fight a replacement opponent Sept 1.
The UFC did, Jackson said, by expecting Jones to adjust to an entirely different style on short notice – and by tying the fate of an entire card to one fight.
During a Thursday teleconference, White announced the cancellation of UFC 151, scheduled Sept. 1 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev.
Dan Henderson, Jones’ scheduled opponent in that night’s main event, was scratched because of a knee injury. Chael Sonnen agreed to replace Henderson, White said, but Jones refused to take the fight against a new opponent with nine days’ notice.
The president of mixed-martial arts’ most powerful organization placed the entire blame on Jones, the UFC light heavyweight champion, and Jackson, Jones’ coach.
Jones trains in Albuquerque at Jackson-Winkeljohn’s Mixed Martial Arts.
Jackson, in a phone interview with the Journal, said he was shocked White expected Jones to agree to the fight on such short notice.
Sonnen is a difficult opponent, Jackson said, with a style completely different from Henderson’s.
“During fight week, nothing happens,” Jackson said, “so it’s (in essence) three days’ notice. Sonnen just fought for the middleweight title; he’s a legitimate threat. … He’s different from (Henderson) in every way you can imagine.
“Jon didn’t cancel the event; UFC canceled the event.”
Based on the timing, White said, UFC had no choice but to scrub the card – an unprecedented action.
“It’s the first (fight) ever canceled in UFC history since we’ve owned the company,” White said, “and the first champion to ever turn down a match.”
Jones (16-1) is now scheduled to fight a rematch against Brazil’s Lyoto Machida (18-3), whom Jones defeated by technical submission in December, in Toronto on Sept. 22.
White said the Toronto card, scheduled as UFC 152, now will become UFC 151.
Jackson said Jones would have been happy to fight Sonnen in Toronto on Sept. 22 – just not in Las Vegas on Sept. 1.
“I just don’t think taking a world title fight on three days’ notice against a very tough opponent is a smart career move for Jon,” Jackson said. Three other Albuquerque-based fighters, Henry Martinez and Kyle Noke of Jackson-Winkeljohn and Tim Means of FIT-NHB, were scheduled to fight on the Sept. 1 undercard.
White said he didn’t know what would become of those fights.
“Good for you, Jon Jones,” White said. “You’re rich, and you’ve got some money; you don’t need to take this fight. But there’s a bunch of guys on the undercard that … this is how they feed their family, and this is how they make a living.”
That’s akin to blackmail, Jackson said.
“You can’t say ‘You have to do this or everybody else will suffer,’ ” he said. “You can’t do that in a professional organization. Well, you can, obviously, but that’s paramount to blackmail.”
White said that, because of the timing, it was too late to salvage the card by elevating the co-main event or finding another opponent for Sonnen.
“We were selling the Jon Jones title fight,” White said. “Who else would we bring in? This was a fight for the light heavyweight title. That’s what people paid for; that’s what people wanted to see.”
Tickets purchased, White said, would be refunded.
White saved his most harsh comments for Jackson, saying it was on his coach’s advice that Jones turned down the Sonnen fight.
“This guy (Jackson) is a (expletive) sport killer, OK? This guy is from another planet. … I’m very confused by (Jackson’s) whole (expletive) business plan.”
Jackson said he was stunned by White’s comments – vitriolic even by the emotional UFC boss’ standards.
“This is all kind of bewildering to me,” he said.”That they canceled an entire card over one fight is weird.
“Dan Henderson got hurt; they tried to pull in somebody on three days’ notice; we said no. Nothing seems unreasonable about that to me.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal