White Cancels Entire UFC Fight Card Nine Days Before Event, Reportedly Furious With Fighter
For the “first time in its history, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has canceled an entire fight card, just nine days before the event,” according to Ben Fowlkes of USA TODAY. UFC President Dana White on Thursday called the move an "all-time low." UFC 151 originally was scheduled for Sept. 1 in Las Vegas with a fight between Jon “Bones” Jones and Dan Henderson. But White said that after Henderson suffered a partial MCL tear and was forced to withdraw from the bout this week, Jones “refused to accept former middleweight contender Chael Sonnen as a substitute opponent.” White “accused Jones and his trainer Greg Jackson of ‘murdering’ the event by refusing to accept the late change of opponents.” But Fowlkes writes it “ultimately was the UFC’s decision, not Jones’, to cancel the event” (USA TODAY, 8/24). White said that ticketholders for UFC 151 at Mandalay Bay “will get refunded” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/24). Meanwhile, UFC co-Chair & CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said that Vitor Belfort “has accepted an offer to fight” Jones on Sept. 22 in Toronto (ESPN.com, 824).
APOLOGY: MMA JUNKIE’s John Morgan noted Jones “believes he made the right choice for his family and his career.” And while Jones “admits he feels terrible for the other 20 fighters on the card who were affected by his decision not to accept a fight with replacement opponent Chael Sonnen, he hopes fans can understand the motivation behind his decision was simple: to ensure he's fighting at peak performance each and every time he steps into the cage.” Jones said that he “never intended for the entire event to be scrapped and apologized to the remaining fighters on the card who were all forced to reschedule their next appearances.” Jones said, "I definitely apologize to the other fighters on the card. I feel terrible, but it also wasn't my decision to cancel the whole card. I don't make those decisions” (MMAJUNKIE.com, 8/23).
DANA'S NOT HAPPY: ESPN.com’s Chad Dundas wrote White has “always been one to wear his emotions on his sleeve, but after Jones reportedly refused a short-notice fight against Sonnen that would have saved UFC 151, the vitriol he unleashed on his 205-pound champion was unprecedented -- at least for an employee.” White “lambasted Jones and his coaches during the 45-minute call, saying he ‘didn't know what to expect anymore’ from” Jones (ESPN.com, 8/23). In Las Vegas, Ed Graney writes White is “not used to any of his fighters dictating minor decisions, never mind such a major one, and his words and tone Thursday came off more like a spoiled child whose parents just handed down a month of restriction than one of the most successful and powerful entrepreneurs in sports history.” White is “all about power, and for the first time in forever when it comes to his company, a fighter publicly usurped that of the president.” Graney: “The truth: Jones made the right call” (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 8/24).
GROWING PAINS: YAHOO SPORTS’ Kevin Iole wrote this is a “coming-of-age problem in many ways for the UFC.” As it has “gotten more successful and generated more revenue, it's attracted better athletes who have been more aware of the business aspects of the sport.” For all the “vitriol being directed Jones' way, he has the right to do what he feels is best for his career.” Jones “looked at it from a strategic standpoint and not simply a fighting standpoint” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/23). FOXSPORTS.com’s A.J. Perez noted UFC 151 “was to be the unveiling for Jones and his deal with Nike, a pact that had been constructed with the full backing of the UFC and was hailed as one of the landmark crossover moments for the sport.” Instead, UFC 151 will be “a reminder that the sport’s popularity has made it susceptible to some of the ills that have befallen the nation’s other major combat sport: boxing” (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/23).
JONES' JURISDICTION: In Detroit, Matt Bishop writes Jones “should've taken the fight.” His decision is “causing an immense amount of collateral damage for not only the UFC, but the other fighters.” Jones’ decision “forced the UFC's hand,” and UFC execs “had no choice but to cancel the show because they didn't have a suitable main event.” Bishop: “Jon Jones made a selfish decision that will haunt him for a long time” (DETROIT NEWS, 8/24). SHERDOG’s Tristen Critchfield wrote the cancellation was “the right call.” As much as there are “teams and camps and families in the tightly-knit MMA community, fighting is an individual sport.” Fighting Sonnen at UFC 151 was “a high-risk, low-reward proposition for Jones.” In the end, Jones “did what he thought was best for his career” (SHERDOG.com, 8/23).