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The Villain: Jon Jones and Michael Bisping Talk About Embracing the Hate in MMA

Posted on by Damon Martin

Jon Jones and Michael BispingIn every sport, athletes are often cast as either hero or villain.

There are those competitors that are routinely cheered and well liked amongst fans and media. Then there are those that often vilified whether through actions or words, and deep down none of them may actually be “bad guys,” but they are treated as such when they walk into an arena or are shown on a TV screen.

In 2010 when LeBron James made his infamous “decision” to join the Miami Heat, he was lambasted in the press for his transgression to not only put on an hour-long special to announce his move to Miami, but to flaunt it in such an open forum while abandoning his hometown team in Cleveland where he started his NBA career.

Over the next NBA season, James was routinely booed in every arena he appeared in, and despite his jersey sales still reaching some of the top numbers in the entire NBA, he was the league’s biggest villain for an entire year based around one moment on ESPN when he uttered that famous phrase, “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.”

The last few weeks have been eerily similar for UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who didn’t make his “decision” in such a public forum like a live interview on ESPN, but instead opted to turn down a short-notice fight with Chael Sonnen after his original opponent Dan Henderson dropped out due to injury in a conversation with his bosses.

Right or wrong, whether one fighter should be held responsible for that action happening, Jones was seen as the catalyst behind the first major UFC event being cancelled in 11 years.

Now as he heads into his next scheduled fight at UFC 152 against Vitor Belfort, the questions continue to come at Jones about his decision to turn down the fight a few weeks earlier at UFC 151, and some of his reactions have been met with harsh criticism.

He has stated that he’s not in the sport to be loved, he has nothing to prove to anyone, and has no regrets about his decision to not fight at UFC 151. Jones took pot shots at opponent Dan Henderson for his “old man” status and blamed his knee injury for him not fighting at UFC 151.

All of this has led Jones to a precarious situation with fans as he heads into his next fight because he was already on shaky ground with many of them for his perceived “cocky” nature and many have accused him for being “fake” in the past. This latest scenario has only tossed Jones back into the fire of public scrutiny, but he says he’s not embracing the role of villain the way James did after his decision led to Cleveland fans going as far as burning his jersey in the streets.

“I am not going to say I embraced the role of being a villain because I am not,” Jones told MMAWeekly.com recently. “I am not a villain; I am not a bad person. I pride myself off of inspiring others. For all the people that think I am cocky, it’s like if you really listen to what I talk about, if you talk to me about fighting you may hear something that is a little arrogant because, right now, I train so hard to not even get hit, let alone talk about rousing a fight.

“So it is like I love this sport so much, I own it to myself to think of myself in the highest regard, so I am not going to apologize if I am a little full of myself when it comes to MMA.”

The defensive nature of Jones’ response may just cast him even deeper into the villain role, but the UFC’s top light heavyweight insists that he’s not a bad guy. Jones says he’s actually a very nice guy, who gives back to his sport and his teammates every day.

“I am the nicest person ever to everyone who has ever met me,” Jones said. “I’m the nicest person to people. Every day I walk into Jackson’s gym and I hand out boxes of equipment. I order stuff all the time for my teammates and just give it out. I just give it to people. I am like the nicest person ever.”

Extolling one’s own virtues may not be the best way to ingratiate oneself in the public eye, but Jones has been taking a beating lately and his natural defense is simply to remind people that he’s not really a bad guy.

If there’s one fighter who can relate to being the “bad guy” in MMA, it’s former Ultimate Fighter winner Michael Bisping.

Over the last few years, Bisping has become public enemy No. 1 in most MMA fan circles, and he’s learned to embrace the hate. Quite often when the boos reach their loudest is when you’ll see the biggest smile on Bisping’s face, but even he admits it takes time to reach the point where you can take the disdain from fans and turn it into a positive.

“See the thing is that comes with time. Obviously I’ve been around it for a while now before anyone even knew who Jon Jones was. At first it gets you a little upset, because you’ve gone from everyone loving you to thinking you’re a (expletive). It takes some time coming round,” Bisping told MMAWeekly Radio recently when asked if Jones should embrace the villain role.

“Cause at first you want everyone to like you, and you try to change them and you try to put out the correct responses, and you’re thinking about this and the marketing and the PR and all the rest of it. But then after a certain amount of time you’ve just got to think ‘awww (expletive) it, if that’s what they’re going to think, that’s what they’re going to think,’ and go with it. That’s certainly how it was for me.”

Early in his journey in the UFC, Bisping was beloved by fans, but it quickly turned to venom and it wasn’t an overnight trip where he learned to embrace it.

“I got cheered at first. I fought at UFC 66 when Chuck Liddell fought Tito (Ortiz) for the second time, and that was in Vegas, and the crowd was fantastic. It wasn’t long before they were all booing me. It’s hard to transition. We’re all human beings, we’re sensitive, especially fighters. We’re emotional, sensitive people,” said Bisping.

“So at first you can’t understand it and maybe it might upset you a little bit, but after a while you’ve just got to go with it.”

Bisping has learned very well to just go with it, and despite his status as the UFC’s biggest villain, he remains one of the biggest draws and most requested interviews. Bisping is just being himself all the time now, and doesn’t fight to please anyone any more.

“I’m certainly not one of these fake (expletive). Trust me, there’s a lot of fake people out there that will be a nice guy to your face, on camera or whatever they’re super nice, but when there’s not a camera around, they’re absolutely (expletive). I’m not naming names, but I’m not one of those guys,” said Bisping.

“Either I’m a good guy or I’m consistently an (expletive), one or the other.”

Is it time for Jon Jones to learn from Michael Bisping and just accept the role of villain or can he buck the system and find love from the fans again?

UFC 152 will be the first test for Jones after the debacle surrounding the cancellation of UFC 151, and the fans reaction to him in Toronto will be the real litmus test to his future as hero or villain in MMA.

To hear Michael Bisping’s entire interview on MMAWeekly Radio listen to last Tuesday’s show in our archives

  • http://www.twitter.com/uncanny390 uncanny390

    Jon Jones definitely hasn’t reached Bisping levels of hate yet. Despite his recent actions, I guarantee Jones is still one of the top five fan favorite fighters in the UFC.

    Of course Chael Sonnen is probably in the top ten as well so that doesn’t exactly say anything about one’s character :P

  • Spence_Gill

    Why is everyone hating Jones. He brings the fight every time and he’s the best LHW ever! Yea he’s got some issue’s but are we here to judge one’s character, or are we here to see a fight!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002337774987 cedrickmartin

      Spence_Gill I couldnt have said it better. There are too many Character police on here. I could care less about what these fighter say or do, I want to see them fight.

      Jon Jones is getting bashed for not taking the fight against Sonnen, but last year he too several fights on short notice. So now he’s a bad guy cuz he didnt want to? Makes no sense.

      I dont hear anyone talk bad about Dan Henderson who know hew was hurt, but didn’t Tell Dana until a week from the fight. IMO, the UFC is putting on too many cards, that are weak. You have to always consider that fighters might get hurt during training. Dont put it all on one fighter to make or break the card…

    • markronin

      Why are there still retards who ask these inane questions.

      We’re here to do both, this sport is not just about scores and records, but also about the fighters themselves and who they are. Otherwise why have conferences, interviews, backstories and articles like this.

    • onehitwonder

      That’s the problem! he didn’t bring anything, and all the fans that made plans to go did NOT see a fight. He’s not a bad guy, just a disappointment. He had opp.to save the sport that he (and i quote)”loves so much”, but instead just took a big CRAP on it and it’s fans. yeah, i’m sure he is nice to peaple he knows and spreads the cash(he’s got enough to spread) but what did he do for the UFC when it needed him most? and on another Jones quote “LeBron James has the weight of the world on his shoulders” are you kidding me Jon?? he throws a ball for a living! Starting a war, changing laws, things that affect millions of peaple, That’s a weight, LeBron could die tomarrow and noboby would be affected!! that’s why everyone is hating on Jon, the things he says aren’t even in touch with reality sometimes.

      • vivalamma

        Yeah the fact that you can’t understand why he turned down that fight tells me you know very little about the sport lol. When fighters train for a fight they train for their opponent. Although Sonnen was “untrained” for Jones, he was one of Henderson’s damn training partners (I also find it fishy that Sonnen starting talking shit to Jones right before news of the injury even surfaced). Even if this wasn’t the case, Jones is not someone that takes chances with fights and looks at every opponent as a challenge regardless if they trained or not especially if he holds the title. It’s really easy to judge someone when your not in their shoes. Don’t be a sheep people. Research and formulate your own opinions. I know this is technically an opinion, but nobody should be hating this much on Jones if you actually saw everything for what it was.

        In the spirit of sounding like a broken record, Jones did not cancel the event, the card was weak overall. I understand that up-and-coming fighters need exposure but you don’t put that much fresh meat on one card. Jones was used as as scapegoat for the UFC’s poor ability to arrange a decent line of fights. Not to mention besides the main event, the card was left unscathed. So what if they have to wait a few weeks more to fight? big woop sh*t like this is going to happen in this sport.

        As for the Lebron reference so what if he related to him? was he supposed to relate to Mother Theresa? They are both involved in very socially critical sports. The reference was based solely on animosity felt towards him as a player not his “contribution to the world”.

        When it comes down to it, it’s all about the fight and Jones will emerge a champion once again, and none of you haters will have a thing to say about it;no one will give a sh*t.

        • onehitwonder

          I know enough about the sport to know plenty of UFC fighters have step in on short notice without time to training for “their opponent”. Sonnen trained with Hendo for the Jones fight,maybe Cheal was “Jones ready” but do you really think that would have helped him? I could see needing more time for someone else (anderson silva) but Sonnen would have been an easy payday. no matter what you do in life, you gotta “step up” sometimes, this was his time to step up for the UFC, think of the fans, this may have been someones one and only chance to go.

  • kevstinx

    Because someone pointed in the direction of Jones and told us all that it is his fault, Dana & Joe Silva setup such a shit card, expecting fans to buy it due to one event.

    If Dana was confident in the rest of the card there would have been no cancellation.

    Most of the fans are ‘morons’ and have no clue.

    The demographic is 18 – 25 of predominantly American idiots. Always easy to pick a hate figure and shout at them than to understand why you are hating them.

    Dana and crew made Jones and now he doesn’t jump when they say how high, Dana and crew want to chop Jones down.

    Dana throw his nappy out the pram again?

    • markronin

      Jones was already hated before that historic debacle which was entirely Jones’ fault. He had no legitimate reason to not fight and never before has a fighter not fought when the UFC needed them.

      Jones is so full of shit it’s amazing that there are still people who are so fucking stupid as to continue to pretend like there’s no reason to dislike Jones.

      The sycophants are far more despicable than the haters.

    • TandmWarElephant

      You must be one of those morons you speak of…. What made the card a sh*t card? There were a lot of great fighters on that card jay hieron, jake ellenberger, danny castillo, micheal johnson, dennis hallman, thiago tavares, kyle noke, charlie brennemen (however you spell it)…. I agree the card wouldn’t have sold if Jones wasn’t on it but that does not make it a sh*t card… Any one of the fights would have been better then the main event anyways… How are any of those guys supposed to get more exposure if Dana can’t put them on a card because their “crap fighters” that no one wants to see?
      Dana wasn’t “confident in the rest of the card” because of fans like you…
      Fact of the Matter is Jones didn’t fight. Plain and simple, you can point the fingers to Dana or Jones but the fact of the matter is it wasn’t Dana’s fight so I fail to see how it’s his fault that the card was cancelled?
      Does no one care that Jones is the ONLY champ to pull something like this? Honestly ANY of the people that supposedly offered to fight Jones, he would have been able to beat anyways..
      I think that’s what makes it such a big deal not the fact that it was a “crap card”

      • vivalamma

        its not a matter of who’s fault it was. It’s the fact that Dana himself blamed Jones for the cancellation as a whole, and then later admitted that it was wrong to put all of that on him. But by the time he had come out and said it, he had already lit the “hate” fire towards Jones.
        And i don’t know if i would go as far as to say that any of those fights would have been better than the main event lol. Sure there are fighters that are slowly making their way up. But you don’t put that many fresh fighters on one card, very few want to see that, the brutal and honest truth.

  • lowlb

    Ah, now this I love.
    I have so often wondered why people worship people they don’t know.
    People take these figures so seriously and are empowered by liking a particular entertainer and equally empowered by not liking, again, somebody they don’t even know. Why does liking something give people a sense of self-worth?

    When I here John JOnes, I hear him trying real hard to impress me.
    It implies he is insecure which is just fine with me. I have no problem with him actively trying to bolster his confidence.

    When I hear Randy Couture talk, I hear all confidence. he’s got his own opinions, he is modest and he has respect. Same with Brian Stann. They don’t need to try and impress anyone.

    I can’t understand why people dislike Rashad or Bisping. I watched the TUF stuff and they had their opinions and they came across as sincere.

    I think the idol worshiping and the hating is all based in insecurity.
    If your an untalented mediocre dude, with no self-confidence your going to defensively worship people you don’t know because you wish you were someone else.

    People are tools and subject to manipulation. Hate Obama because he’s black. Hate the word liberal because they implies it equals weakness =stupidity…

    Be the great man your dog thinks you are.

    Don’t take the UFC too seriously. It’s closer aligned with the Housewives of Orange County than another professional sport.
    It’s a popularity contest ( and getting worse). Dana White is an ego-maniac. No other behind the scenes sports manager is so self-promoting. It’s a show. He’s just a loud-mouth and people wish they had as much to say, people wish they were special and so they worship people they don’t even know….

    Straighten up your spine and be your own man!

    Dana’s pissed at JJ because he wanted to make the money and he wants continuity in his sport. JJ turned down the fight for good reasons.

    I am very interested to hear why people don’t like Bisping.
    I did love the Jose Rivera parody of him though, that was hilarious.
    Ok, fry me…

    • TandmWarElephant

      I agree with all you are saying but also see the other side of it… I am not a fan of Jones not because of his personality, it’s simply his style, not special to me. I am a Bisping fan because of how underrated he is as a fighter, Fan of Evans because he too is underrated for some reason now…. I don’t understand how people can hate Bisping because of the Hamill fight honestly? And nobody can say other wise because when it comes down to it thats the only relevant arguement Bisping haters can come up with.. I was fortunate enough to meet Bisping in Vegas, and weird? he didn’t spit in my face, talk trash to me, or knee me when I was down… That’s weird because I thought the guy was supposed to be a dick? Not a nice cool guy to talk to!
      I honestly believe the persona Bisping puts on is only to help himself such as Koschek and Sonnen, because no one ever gives him chances so he has to start talking himself up

  • shakejunt

    i’d like to see the fight too, but just shut up with this nonsense already and kill yourself

  • JAVbal1633

    Struggled in practice? hahahahaha YEAHHHH The best UFC fighter in history who has 15 wins in a row is afraid of a guy who no one knew until he caught fat ass Munoz with a bow to the face.

    And you do realize for the last time that THE UFC DID NOT OFFER SILVA A FIGHT WITH WEIDMAN!!!!!

    BUT if I was Silva I’d be hysterically laughing that Weidman who has a total of 5 career wins (against who by the way???) has called me out.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000493632092 anthonylopez

      Besides the fact that Weidman actually has 9 wins, you are absolutely right. If everyone stops crying and just lets the Weidman Silva fight happen on its own terms in its own time, it’ll be better for everyone.

  • drewnathan

    Jon Jones is still in the “No, really, I’m a nice guy, you got it all wrong people!” phase, while Bisping has been at this for a few years already. I agree with Bisping, the more you try to pick your words and pretend to be someone else, the worst it will be. Embrace the villain role, Jones. Don’t fight it.

  • wiiliamstanley

    This is becoming whack as f%ck. Jones didn’t take a fight that he would have won…. i have no clue why but whatever. Big deal its over. What people should be pist about is Dana White trying to sell you a whack ass fight card for fifty bucks that was based off one main fight. If you ask me, he is the Villan.

  • grandpatweed

    Jones is making it sound like people think he’s cocky purely on the way he speaks but the guy won’t even stop walking long enough to take a picture, won’t even look at the camera acted like a ****** underwear model. This was back at the first Toronto UFC and he’s only gotten worse. Everyone has the right to make their own decision especially about their own lives/future but he was already one of my least favorite and deserving fighters of all the respect, fame, and money that a champion earns.