Saturday, August 25, 2012

The incredible Mr. Softee reigning at the top

I always thought there was an uncanny resemblance between UFC light heavyweight (205 lbs.) champion Jon 'Bones' Jones and Mr. Softee; however I never thought it would ever show its face the way it did this past week. For the first time in its history, the UFC is canceling a scheduled pay-per-view event and right or wrong; at the center of it all is Jon Jones.

If for whatever reason you don't know the scenario by now, let me give a quick rundown of the domino effect that has befallen UFC 151. Jones was scheduled to defend his title against challenger Dan Henderson as the headliner for next Saturday's event. Nine days before the fight, Henderson gets injured during training; first domino to fall. Is it a big deal? Yes. Is it a Catastrophe? No; that is unless the champ decides to not fight against the replacement UFC management chose for him.

On such short notice and looking for a suitable replacement that would intrigue and appease their fans, the UFC brass decided on middleweight contender Chael Sonnen; he who just lost a title bid at 185 lbs. just six weeks ago. Sonnen agreed to take on the much bigger champ, who has been preparing for a fight, albeit not against Sonnen. Yet, because it wasn't Sonnen he was training for, Jones and his handlers decided it was best for him not to take the fight. Second domino to fall and now they start falling fast and furious.

Lyoto Machida, who claims he wanted another shot at Jones says yes, but not yet and ultimately we are left with Jones facing Vitor Belfort, who also is coming up from 185 lbs. and who has not fought since January due to injury. Confused? Just take a look at Mr. Softee's expression up top and you'll see you're not alone. However, there are two issues at hand here. Is it Jon Jones fault that UFC 151 got canceled? Also, what type of champion says no to a fight; especially one that makes or breaks a card?

On the issue of whose fault is it that the card got canceled, Brian 'Goze' Garcia, co-host of MMA Junkie Radio gave an interesting response to that question; he said, "Dana White's job is to promote and put together a fight card, which includes fixing it when it breaks down; that is what he does. It is not Jon Jones job to salvage a card." Yet, he also went on to say, "However, if it were me I would have taken the fight, but I can see the reasoning behind why he didn't."

Garcia went on to explain, "Anytime you step into a cage could be your last. Thus, you want to make sure you are at your best when taking on an opponent. Chael Sonnen is a dangerous guy with a unique skill set. You think if he took the fight and then got hurt, any of the fighters would have given up money to take care of Jon Jones?"

Ironically, I came across a UFC fighter Friday night, who just happened to be scheduled on the under card of UFC 151. Welterweight Charlie Brenneman was at a local MMA event I was covering when I asked his opinion on the Jones situation. He pulled no punches in saying, "If it were me, I would have taken the fight. I mean it wasn't like he was on vacation when he was approached about it; he was in full training camp for a fight."

Brenneman's opinion is the strong majority of fighters in the UFC and beyond; especially those who were scheduled to fight on that card and ended up losing time and money because of Jones decision. While Goze Garcia made some valid points on Jones behalf, I tend to agree with Brenneman and the general consensus of fighters and fans alike. There are two reasons why.

Jones is not just any fighter he is the fighter the UFC is building its brand and hopes on. At just 25 years old and looking seemingly invincible in the cage, the UFC has marketed this guy as their poster boy. Granted Anderson Silva is arguably the greatest fighter in the world, but he's 37 and a Brazilian who doesn't speak very good English. Georges St. Pierre, a Canadian who also doesn’t speak very good English, has been injured for nearly a year. Thus, Jones with the skill, good looks and personality is their guy; or so they thought.

The UFC made Jones the first fighter ever to sign an endorsement deal with the brand to promote their clothing line. You think Dana White regrets making that decision now? White has openly and publicly decried and denounced Jones's decision this past week and said it would definitely put a divide between them. Yet, there is a bigger issue at hand here.

In MMA, along with boxing, there are competitors and then there are fighters. There is an old phrase in combat sports that says, "You can't teach heart." Jon Jones has unbelievable skill as a mixed martial artist; but he has no heart as a fighter. Any true fighter takes a fight regardless of who, when, where and what's at stake. It is, as Goze Garcia said, "What separates good fighters from legends;" and why I say, "There is an incredible Mr. Softee reigning at the top."

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