Thursday, August 23 will go down as the first time the UFC has had to outright cancel an event after Dan Henderson suffered an injury in training and the entire card for UFC 151 had to be shut down.
The UFC made every effort to save the card by calling several competitors to see if anyone would be willing to step in and face light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in the main event.
Eventually, UFC President Dana White found one person willing to accept the fight, but hours later it was Jon Jones who was turning down the match-up, and thus UFC 151 was canceled.
“One guy did, not only when I called him did he say ‘I’ll take the fight’, he said ‘I’ll fly to Las Vegas tonight and fight him’ and that was Chael Sonnen. Chael Sonnen accepted the fight with Jon Jones, wanted the fight bad, so as of 8 or 9 o’clock last night we had a fight. We here at the UFC started working, started creating different commercials, PR started getting ready to crank up, I was going to do this call and it obviously was going to be a much different call this morning,” White revealed on Thursday’s media conference call.
“The one thing that I never thought in a million years would happen, happened. Jon Jones said ‘I’m not fighting Chael Sonnen with 8 days notice’. Again something that’s never happened in UFC history a guy who’s a world champion and considered one of the pound-for-pound best turns down a fight.”
White was obviously taken back by Jones’ unwillingness to step in and face Sonnen next weekend at UFC 151, and used words like ‘disgusted’ when asked to describe the situation.
When the news first reached the UFC offices that Henderson was out and the calls started going out to fighters to find a replacement, Sonnen didn’t hesitate one bit to move from middleweight to light heavyweight and face Jones next weekend.
“Chael’s a lunatic. I called Chael, and Chael said I’ll fly to Las Vegas tonight and fight him at Mandalay Bay, or any other casino you would like me to fight him at,” White stated.
“Chael was pumped, Chael was excited for this fight. Chael told me that (Jones) ‘is a mental midget and he’ll beat him mentally first, and he also told me, Chael said ‘tell Jon Jones there won’t be any spinning back fists in this fight. Chael Sonnen only falls down once’.
“I think by Friday Chael Sonnen would have convinced most of us he was going to win.”
White went onto say that Sonnen is the kind of fighter the UFC wants to represent them in terms of willingness to step up and help save a card like what happened with UFC 151.
“In the heat of the moment when things are going down, this is the guy that you pick up the phone and call, and he will fight anybody. This isn’t a guy who just talks, and shoots his mouth off. A guy that other guys won’t fight on short notice, Chael Sonnen says I’ll fight him tonight. He’s that kind of a person,” said White.
Chael Sonnen was actually with his girlfriend visiting her father who just recently had a stroke according to White, but once the offer came up to face Jones he was willing to come back into fight mode and help save the card. Sonnen’s manager Mike Roberts of MMA Inc. spoke to MMAWeekly.com on Thursday, and said they were ready to step in to face Jon Jones because it was just the right thing to do.
“Chael called me and we discussed it, and it’s never an ideal situation to fight Jon Jones on a week’s notice, but the fact is when Dan went down, Chael was going to step in and do it. The bigger picture is after Chael and I talked and we both agreed that this is sport is bigger than Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen. It’s about the UFC and all the guys in it,” Roberts said.
“This affects everybody, UFC employees, Mandalay Bay employees, fighters that need that money, families that took vacations, it’s much bigger than Chael and Jon. Chael was willing to do it, he wanted to fight Jones, and he wanted to be there for all the fans and the UFC. ”
White didn’t pull any punches when speaking about Jones and his decision to not take the fight with Sonnen. It sounds like for now the UFC’s reigning and defending light heavyweight champion is on rocky ground when it comes to dealing with the President of the company.
“This is one of those selfish, disgusting decisions that doesn’t just affect you, you just affected 16 other family’s lives, kids are going back to school, the list goes on and one. The money that was spent for these guys to train and everything else,” White explained.
“I don’t think this is a decision that’s going to make Jon Jones popular with the fans, sponsors, cable distributors, television network executives, or other fighters.”
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