UFC Light Heavy Weight Champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was originally scheduled to face Rashad Evans at UFC 128, but that was before Rashad suffered a knee injury while training for the title bout. Now, Rashad will be sitting on the sidelines watching his teammate Jon Jones attempt to take the title on March 19 in Newark , NJ.
Jones earned his title shot after beating Ryan Bader at UFC 126. Immediately after the victory, UFC broadcaster Joe Rogan announced to Jones and the world that the UFC had decided to grant him his wish: a shot at Shogun’s title. Since that time some fans have asked, “Would Ryan Bader have been offered the same title shot if he’d won?” We’ll never know, but most fans’ reaction was that he wouldn’t have. If Zuffa had planned on the winner getting a shot regardless, surely they’d have used the news to hype the fight, just as they have many times in the past. It appears the UFC held out to see who would win, likely hoping for Jones, and that fact tells us a lot about their plans for his future.
In the last week or so leading up to this title fight Jon Jones has been on a promotional whirlwind. Most recently he’s appeared on Fox5 New York to talk about the event and had the chance to hang out with rapper 50 Cent after doing an interview at the rapper’s NYC office. In fact, he’s been so busy one of his 52,000 followers on Twitter asked him “Isn’t being in the spotlight 24/7 like this distracting?” Jones replied “No, not at all. I’m training twice a day.”
The Jon Jones hype train is running full steam ahead and it appears a lot people are on board. Yahoo News has a two part spread on him and his face is covering the front page of many MMA sites on the web. The UFC has also decided to give the New York native his own special on Spike, “Jon Jones: In the Moment.” But what’s most surprising is that odds makers have him listed at more than a 2 to 1 favorite against the Champion. All this leaves us wondering…is there no love for Shogun?
At 23 years old Jones has been called a “Next Generation Fighter.” Obviously, the UFC sees Jones as a potential long term superstar for them, but isn’t Shogun the current champion for heaven’s sakes? Has the Jon Jones War Wagon distracted people from remembering everything Shogun has accomplished in this sport?
Rua was one of the most promising acquisitions from Zuffa’s PRIDE takeover. With 23 wins under his belt, the former Chute Boxe prodigy has beaten a who’s who of top talent. After winning all three of his bouts in PRIDE Bushido events, Rua entered and won the Pride 205lb Grand Prix in 2005 as a heavy underdog. He’s a ferocious Muay Thai stylist who’s completely destroyed some of the best strikers in MMA history. His record boasts first round knockouts over the likes of Rampage Jackson, Chuck Liddell, Kevin Randleman, Ricardo Arona, and Alistair Overeem (twice). His first round annihilation of Lyoto Machida earned him KO of the Year and the UFC Light Heavyweight belt in May 2010. He’s widely regarded as one of the top five fighters in pound for pound rankings and the #1 overall Light Heavyweight fighter in the world, all at 29 years old. He also has a reputation as one of the kindest and most humble fighters in the sport.
Shogun is a LEGEND.
So the question is, why is there so much hype for Jones and not Rua? So many people are looking past the champion and it’s very confusing. Jones has never fought someone with the striking abilities or KO resume as Shogun. Jones has indeed won by submission before and might look to take the fight to the ground quickly, but Rua is a black belt in Brazilian Jui Jitsu. Just because he doesn’t prefer to go to the ground doesn’t mean he can’t. He can, and he will.
Granted, Jones is a young and explosive fighter with every opportunity to make history this weekend. But win or lose he’ll have a bright career ahead of him and he’ll be a superstar for the UFC for decades to come. It appears as if the UFC may now view Shogun as somewhat expendable. After all, his legend was created in Pride whereas Jones is a home grown UFC product. Many fans have said that now might not be the right time for Jones to challenge for the title. Perhaps he could use a little more experience against top ranked competition first? Obviously the UFC doesn’t have the same opinion. So what exactly earns a fighter a title shot in the UFC?
A recent quote by Rashad Evans is telling. When asked about his next title shot Evans said “The problem is, there’s no governing body to the UFC to decide who gets the title shot. There’s no ranking, so how do I know when I’ll get a title shot again? What, when Dana White likes me enough? It’s basically on when he likes me, and you know as well as I do, that’s not that often.” And there’s our answer folks, straight from the lips of a former champion himself. When Dana White likes you enough. And he must love Jon Jones by the look of things.
But this is not the first time Mauricio Shogun Rua has been considered an underdog and, as always, he’s carried himself with class and respect. He’s more than happy to prove the doubters wrong. And because of that he’ll always be a champion in the hearts of his loyal fans across the world.
Shogun will always be a LEGEND.