On Thursday, August 23, UFC 151 was cancelled after the card's main event matchup fell through. Light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was supposed to defend his title against number one contender Dan Henderson, but Henderson had to pull out due to a knee injury. The UFC attempted to save the pay-per-view by proposing that Jones take on against Chael Sonnen, but Jones refused to take the fight.
Jones deserves criticism for his decision. He's a fighter who has gone out of his way to talk about his warrior spirit in the past, but then he backed out of a fight against a middleweight who was beaten less than two months ago. Jones would have had every advantage heading into a fight with Sonnen: he would just be finishing a full training camp, while Sonnen would have had only eight days to prepare for the fight. Jones also would have been facing a fighter with a similar style to Henderson's. Now Jones appears selfish, and that image is something he's going to have to live with for the foreseeable future.
However, Jones never should have been put in this position. If the UFC had built a card with a strong co-main event, then president Dana White wouldn't have needed to cancel the show. The truth is the organization is putting on too many shows, which is spreading the current roster too thin. There aren't enough marketable fights out there for the UFC to put on a pay-per-view every three to four weeks with free shows on FOX, FX and FUEL TV as well.
The UFC is doing a lot of things right. For example, the organization is responsible for building MMA into a legitimate sport with support from fans and athletes around the world. Nearly everything the UFC has done in the past seven years has been successful. But the company is making too many critical mistakes with its scheduling. Injuries are a part of the sport; everyone knows that. One injury should never cause the cancellation of a card. A UFC event should always have enough multiple strong matchups to carry the card in the event one of the fights is lost.
It's time for the UFC to pause and take a look at its business strategy. Is it really worth angering both the athletes who had their fights cancelled or postponed and the fans who lost money on travel arrangements? Is it worth upsetting one of the biggest cash cows (Jones) in MMA by blaming him for the organization's failure to put on a card with some depth?
The UFC needs to cut back on the number of shows it's putting on each year. This is the only way to guarantee that a debacle like UFC 151 won't happen again.
Derek Ciapala is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor for MMA. He has been published on GatewayMMA.com, UltimateApocalypse.com and multiple other websites. You can check him out on Facebook or on Twitter @dciapala.
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Martial Arts
- Jon Jones
- Chael Sonnen
- Dan Henderson