I woke up in Las Vegas this morning to an urgent message from The UFC notifying me that company president Dana White would be holding a hastily arranged conference call with about an hour’s notice.
Before I went to bed last night, I noticed that retired UFC fighter Kenny Florian had tweeted ominously about potential bad news for fight fans involving the company’s Labor Day weekend pay per view, causing some to speculate that main event light heavyweight title challenger Dan Henderson had pulled out of his fight with champion Jon Jones due to injury. As it turned out, the confirmation of the injury rumor was only part of one of the most explosive days in the history of the company.
Moments after joining the call this morning, White announced that for the first time in his 11 year involvement with the company, a pay per view would be cancelled.
Dan Henderson had in deed suffered a partial MCL tear, causing his withdrawal from the UFC 151 card scheduled to be held at Mandalay Bay on September 1. He then revealed that last night, immediately upon hearing the news from Henderson, he had offered the fight with Jones to Chael Sonnen, who immediately jumped at the chance.
Sonnen, who lost his rematch with middleweight champion Anderson Silva just last month, had planned to move up to light heavyweight in December to face Forrest Griffin, but this would’ve escalated his jump in weight class from being four months away to happening in little more than a week.
While White spoke glowingly of Sonnen’s immediate willingness to step into the UFC 151 main event and save the card, he quickly turned his ire toward Jones, calling his decision not to accept the replacement fight as “disgusting and selfish”.
“Good for Jon Jones for being rich” Dana White exclaimed regarding the champion, who just this past week became the first UFC fighter to be sponsored by Nike. “There’s 16 other guys (on the undercard) who are fighting for a lot less that depend on that money to feed their families, and now they’re not getting paid”.
White lamented that “never in a million years” would he have envisioned a champion like Jones turning down a fight, and that his refusal has changed his relationship with and opinion of him “a lot”. White also had strong words for Jones’ coach Greg Jackson, who he called “a sport killer” for advising Jones not to take the fight.
“Greg Jackson is a weirdo…who’s on a different planet. He should never be interviewed by anybody ever again, except maybe by a psychiatrist.” The audio from my conference call with Dana White can be heard here:
PLAY: Dana White
As fate would have it, I was on a call with Jon Jones himself just two days ago, where I asked him about his newfound focus on money.
He had recently been critical of a planned rematch with Lyoto Machida should he defeat Henderson, as their first fight was a low grossing pay per view by company standards. He seemed to be becoming focused not just the money that he himself earns, but also the potential revenue that each potential opponent can generate for him.
His response was a lengthy one, in which he “refused to apologize for not wanting to be a broke athlete” and pointing out that he has a lot of college to pay for because he “has a lot of kids”. The audio of my conversation with him can be heard here:
PLAY: Jon Jones interview
To me, the irony is that Chael Sonnen does wonders when it comes to selling pay per views. If Jon Jones were to take the Sonnen fight against a fighter who not only has not currently been in a training camp but who also has never fought in the organization at that weight class and then somehow lose his title belt, a rematch with Sonnen would undoubtedly be the biggest grossing pay per view of Jones’ career.
Perhaps Jones should ask one of the only fighters consistently ranked pound for pound above him, Anderson Silva, what Chael Sonnen’s mouth can do for his opponent’s wallet when it comes to selling a rematch on pay per view.
You can hear my call in to RAGE on 105.3 The Fan to recap my conference call with Dana White here:
PLAY: Richard Hunter, UFC Conference Call recap
Mike Dingess and I will be providing special audio commentary on this developing story right here on cbsdfw.com
For breaking news and continuing coverage, follow me on Twitter @RichardHunter & follow Mike @MMAmikeD
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