UFC 151, which was slated for Las Vegas over the recent Labor Day weekend, was set to feature light heavyweight champion Jon Jones putting his belt on the line against Dan Henderson.
It’s well known that UFC 151 was cancelled just one week prior to its scheduled date.
In the midst of the cancellation, there has been a lot of finger pointing and mudslinging, much of it aimed squarely at Jones. Be that as it may, he isn’t backing down from his decision.
“I don't regret my decision at all,” Jones said on a recent edition of The MMA (After) Hour on MMAFighting.com; his first full interview since the UFC 151 cancellation. “I actually think it was a really smart personal career decision.”
Most of the anger cast upon Jones stems from the decision he defended in the interview. It was the decision not to accept a fight with one of the only men who said he would step up and fight Jones just eight days out from the event, Chael Sonnen.
People have criticized Jones for everything from being afraid to fight Sonnen to being selfish about his paycheck, but he’s not backing down, although he did try to put his decision in perspective.
“I talked to my coaches about (fighting Sonnen), right away,” Jones explained. “So here I am with a staff of coaches that knows my game, in and out. Each coach said to me, right away, no doubt, we can win this fight. But they also said, I want you to be aware of the fact that you prepared for a complete opposite style.”
Jones pointed out Henderson’s penchant for the right hand, a differing clinch style, and several other details, noting that Sonnen is quite different, being a southpaw, having a different takedown style, employing different submissions and the like.
“He's just a completely different warrior,” said Jones. “I think it would be extremely arrogant on my part to take the fight, to assume that I could beat one of the top five, top 10 fighters on the planet without preparing for him whatsoever.”
In all of Jones’ comments, preparation is the key theme that threads through the conversation. Preparation is what Jones believes makes him the champion he is. While many people talk about a fighter’s athleticism or his incredible skills or his innate sense of being a fighter, Jones believes his success is founded on a good, old-fashioned work ethic.
“The reason why I'm so good at fighting is not because I'm this freak athlete with two brothers in the NFL and I'm just that great at fighting; my secret to success is being so prepared. I train five times a day – I really doubt that other light heavyweights train five times a day – and I study every night. Why would I go against everything I stand for and take a last-minute fight?”
Obviously, Jones believes that a lack of preparation for a particular opponent – not just a fight in and of itself – is not part and parcel to how he works as a fighter, and he wasn’t ready to jeopardize his career by denying what got him to where he is.
After declining to face Sonnen at UFC 151, Jones agreed to compete at UFC 152 on Sept. 22, showing that, given some time to prepare, he would fight. He originally agreed to fight Lyoto Machida in Toronto, but Machida declined the fight, citing the lack of time for a proper training camp. Jones instead landed in a bout with Vitor Belfort.
“I fought four times in 10 months. I did every media tour I had to do. At times I didn't know if I was going to win this fight because I was doing so much media for the UFC. I do tons of things I don't get paid for, just to try to be a company guy. But put my livelihood on the line; you can't ask me to do that. That's way too much to lose,” Jones explained.
“Now I'm just hated because I did what was right for me and my future?
“I just thought I meant a lot to the UFC and they made me feel like a piece of meat, a total piece of meat.”
That doesn’t mean that his relationship with the UFC, or company president Dana White, in particular, is beyond repair.
Jones hasn’t spoken with his boss since the UFC 151 cancellation announcement, but he believes that once everything gets put back in perspective – with the assistance of time – there will be some awkward moments, but that everything will get back on track.
“At the end of the day, Dan Henderson got hurt. That's what happened. I was ready. Two weeks ago, everything was going perfect and then now, I'm the bad guy. What did I do, really? I didn't get hurt. I didn't cancel the fight.
“At the end of the day, all I really got to do is beat Vitor Belfort.”
Stay tuned for more UFC 151 Cancellation fallout.