UFC 151 Cancellation Blame List: Who You Should Be Mad At and Why
As you have undoubtedly heard, the UFC 151: "Jones vs. Henderson" pay-per-view (PPV) event, scheduled for Sept. 1, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada, has been cancelled.
This is an unprecedented move in the history of the promotion and was a drastic reaction (perhaps overreaction) to the combination of Dan Henderson's untimely injury and Jon Jones' refusal to fight Chael Sonnen as a late replacement.
The cancellation has far-reaching ramifications for thousands of people and businesses and has been the biggest blow to the UFC since the demise of Brock Lesnar. Honestly, it might be the biggest blow to the company since UFC 33 ran over their allotted time and got cut off the air in the midst of Tito Ortiz's defense of his title against Vladimir Matyushenko.
It's also been what we hope to be rock-bottom in the culmination of a series of mostly lackluster cards, waning interest and overall rough times for the premier mixed martial arts (MMA) organization.
There aren't all that many actors in this farce, so the list of people to blame as to why UFC 151 has been cancelled wouldn't even fill up a SportsCenter Top 10 list, but that just makes it all the easier to lay blame on the select few.
I'll go in reverse order, so as not to spoil the number one name on the list for you [spoiler]it's Dana White[/spoiler].
5. Malki Kawa. Malki is Jones manager/agent. By all accounts, he accounts for very little of the blame. One of the (unsubstantiated) stories I heard throughout the day was that Kawa wanted Jones to take the fight, but Greg Jackson didn't and Jones listened to Greg. The only fault Kawa has is that he was unable to convince his client (if he even believed it in the first place) to take the fight against Sonnen or whatever other opponent the UFC offered.
4. Greg Jackson. The erstwhile head of Jackson's MMA is one of the best game-planners in the business. The fighters from Jackson-Winklejohn's are routinely in the top of the divisions and his stable includes many present and former champions. It's a hell of a list: current Strikeforce welterweight champ Nate Marquardt, current UFC interim welterweight champ Carlos Condit, previous welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, former light-heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, former interim heavyweight champion Shane Carwin, former WEC light heavyweight champion Brian Stann. And Jon Jones. Who he apparently advised strongly against taking this fight. This is almost certainly the correct call and the one you should make if you were in Greg's shoes. Your fighter would be going from dealing with a right-handed slugger to a southpaw wrestler.
In talking with MMA Junkie, Jones disclosed that Jackson wouldn't even be showing up until today (Friday), and that much of the staff would be in the Philippines to corner Andrei Arlovski in his upcoming trilogy fight with Tim Sylvia at ONE FC 5. Greg Jackson isn't the person who's job it is to win Jones fan support. He isn't there to help make the UFC money. He is employed by Jon Jones to help him win fights, and it was the ice-cold, ruthless decision for him to advise Jon that attempting to fight someone of Sonnen's skill set on five days of specific training was not a good idea.
3. Chael Sonnen. Chael has found a great amount of success late in his career by marketing himself as the best thing since before anyone sliced bread. However, in his grand marketing ploy, he's had to step on a lot of toes and piss off a lot of people. Here's a list of people who fought for UFC titles coming off of a loss (non-rematch scenario): B.J. Penn, Dan Henderson, Randy Couture, Jorge Patino, Carlos Newton. My apologies if I've missed anyone, that list certainly got illustrious at the end. With the mild exception of BJ, who has a vendetta against anyone out of Tri-Star, there's a pretty common thread throughout most of that list. They haven't pissed off a large segment of other mixed martial artists.
Almost immediately after his fight with Forrest Griffin was announced, Chael started trash talking and mouthing off about Jones. This is the same tactic that helped to build up the fights with Anderson Silva. The only problem was, Jones' response was to tell the class clown to get to the end of the line and wait his turn. Chael Sonnen is an athlete who will almost never, ever have a shot at participating in a title fight for the remainder of his career. He's 0-2 to the champion at middleweight and faces a long and formidable list of opponents who stand a very good shot at never letting the 35-year old ever make it back up to the top of the heap. He used the only avenue available to him - his mouth - to get him to the top of the mountain again.
And it almost worked.
He convinced Dana White and whomever else is in charge of the day-to-day running of the UFC that he should get a title shot at UFC 151. However, the one thing that got him to that point also cost him his chance. You see, he'd pissed off Jon Jones. Jon is a fairly smart individual, drinking habits aside. He was fully aware that if he did what Dana wanted, he'd be giving Sonnen exactly what he wanted: a shot. And Jon is clearly willing to hold the grudge to the point where he's willing to hurt his reputation and hurt his standing with his bosses to not give the person who irked him what he so desperately wants.
2. Jon Jones. Jon could have been the hero. He could have sacrificed his security due to the lack of preparation. He could have swallowed the dislike he has for Sonnen and his words. He could have metaphorically thrown himself on his sword for the 20 other fighters who're now out of luck with the cancellation of the card. He could have done all these things, but he didn't.
And he had no reason to.
It isn't his responsibility to fight individuals on a week's notice. He has the option of declining that. He took it. It isn't his responsibility to worry about the 20 other fighters, who now find themselves without a fight. His responsibility is to himself and the people who count on his continued winning ways to make their living. It would've been great if Jon Jones had been the hero, and maybe it's something we would've done ourselves. But not everyone is the hero-type. Some of us look out for #1 instead. Let me be clear, I'm pretty damned upset that Jon Jones isn't fighting this weekend, and I'm even more upset that 20 other fighters aren't either. I've got no right to blame Jon Jones because 20 other fighters aren't fighting Saturday, I can only be mad at Jones that he isn't.
That leads me to the top of the list.
1. Dana White (and Lorenzo Fertitta and anyone else who makes the decisions that we don't know about). If you added up the total blame of numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5 on this list and then compared it with #1, the proportions would be absurd. It'd probably look something like this, thanks random day-trading ad that happened to be the first image on Google's search:
I like the little sparkle that guy put on the bottom. It really makes it stand out.
There are a lot of reasons why this is the fault of the UFC brass, but the main one is really simple: they're the ones who cancelled the event. Now perhaps in part of the attempted negotiations with Jones and his camp, they made it clear to him that they were going to cancel the event if he didn't fight. Again, though, that little bit of blackmail isn't Jones' problem or fault. Jones is not paid to look after the well-being of other fighters. The head honchos were the ones who made this decision and the blame lies squarely on them.
It is their fault that they've been rolling the dice with paper-thin cards held together with spit and bubblegum. It caught up to them in UFC 147 with a PPV buyrate reported to be only 140,000. It caught up to them in declining ratings on Fox, as the much maligned "#1 contender's bout" between Shogun and Vera drew the same 2.4 million as UFC on Fox 3 did (the Diaz vs. Miller card) - half of the numbers that tuned in for Fox 2 (Evans vs. Davis), which in turn was a drop-off from the 5.7 million that JDS/Cain did on the premiere. I've been harping on this for months, as a matter of fact.
UFC 151 was being maligned as one of the worst cards of the year with the exception of the Jones/Hendo tilt, and the reason for that is because the UFC has spread itself too damn thin. There is a small segment of the population that cares about this and will watch everything. There's another slightly larger segment that will watch big names, stars and big cards. That second portion doesn't give the slightest damn about seeing Jay Hieron, Eddie Yagin, Thiago Tavares, John Lineker and Yasuhiro Uru••••ani on something they're spending 60 bucks on. They don't care that the FX prelims have Jeff Hougland, Tim Means, Abel Trujillo and Henry Martinez. When you overreach, sometimes you get burned, and the UFC got burned badly by putting on a card they couldn't sell because there was no one of interest on it save one fight.
This has been a criticism that Dana himself has leveled against boxing before: the one-fight card. But the UFC has gone and done it and all of a sudden, they're coming to terms with the risk/reward ratio of such things. Imagine if you would, the following scenario: current middleweight champion Sergio Martinez is scheduled to face Julio Cesar Chavez Jr three weeks from now. In two weeks, JCC breaks his hand and pulls out of the fight. Why would Martinez be obligated to take a fight against Jr. (light) middleweight #2 Miguel Cotto, who's fresh off his loss to Mayweather? It's an absurd notion. When you make a one-fight card, as this PPV was, and the fight gets monkey-wrenched by injury, that's your fault for setting yourself up this way.
The behavior of Dana was especially saddening, and in some ways appalling. Again, Jones owes them nothing beyond what he is required to give. The power that the UFC wields with its monopoly right now is enormous, and they're used to people doing what they're told. However, Jones stood his ground as he is within his rights to do, and Dana flew off the handle at Jones and his team. His continued bashing of Jackson as a "f*cking sport killer" is sad and also misplaced, as Dana continues to hand out Fight, Sub and KO of the night bonuses to Jackson fighters with regularity.
I'll close with this solid quote by Rainer Lee:
To sum up what became a massive post exceeding two-thousand words. There are many people you can blame for UFC 151 being cancelled. The only correct answer is Dana White and the rest of the UFC brass, as they're the ones that set this up and they're the ones that pulled the trigger. You can rightfully be made at Jon Jones that he isn't fighting next weekend, but there's no call for him to take the blame for the fall of the entire card.
White is doing a hell of a thing, deflecting blame onto Jones and his camp like this, obscuring the fact that this is an unprecedented move for the UFC because UFC cards right now are shallow to an unprecedented degree.
As for the undercard fighters, there are two people they should be looking to before they look to Jones for responsibility: 1. themselves and the extent to which they are a draw in the sport, and 2. Dana White, who has shown very little faith in their ability to hold the show together. Jones doesn't owe money to the undercard fighters. The UFC does.
He's responsible for himself, not the organization as a whole.