Updated on Aug. 24 at 2:35 p.m. Eastern.
In an unprecedented move this close to an event, the Ultimate Fighting Championship announced Thursday that it has cancelled the entire UFC 151 show due to an injury to Dan Henderson, who was scheduled to fight Jon ‘Bones’ Jones in the main event at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Sept. 1.
Henderson has a partial tear of his MCL in his right knee.
UFC President Dana White offered Chael Sonnen to Jones as a replacement, but the light heavyweight champion rejected the fight. Instead, Jones will defend his belt against Lyoto Machida in Toronto on Sept. 22. UPDATE: Machida turns down fight, so Vitor Belfort steps up to the plate.
Jones’s decision drew the ire of White, who told Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, "I'm stunned. We've never had a situation where this happened before, where a champion wouldn't step up to fight."
Sonnen, who is moving up to the 205-pound loop and will take on Forrest Griffin in December, has been going after Jones verbally for weeks. And he had zero hesitation when White offered him a shot at the light heavyweight kingpin.
“Chael's been out there talking all this crazy shit about Jones, but he proved that he not only talks the talk, he walks the walk," White told Iole. "I offered the fight to a couple of guys, and believe me when I tell you, nobody wants to fight Jon Jones on [short] notice. Nobody. But when I called Chael, that crazy [expletive] said, 'Not only will I fight him, but I'll get on a plane and fight him at Mandalay Bay tonight, if that's what you want.' "
In an interview on ESPN late Thursday afternoon, Sonnen said, “I don’t know why he won’t fight me next Saturday night. Is there a wine tasting at the local racetrack or something?”
(Quick Thought: Man, I love me some Chael Sonnen!)
Jones’s reputation takes a serious hit here. Sure, you can make a case that he and every other fighter has the right to turn down any fight on short notice.
But in this instance, Jones is making the wrong move on so many levels. First of all, White confirmed to the media that Jones was made aware of the consequences (the entire show being called off), so he’s knowingly costing fellow fighters and fans galore tons of money already spent on airfare, hotels, training camps and everything else that goes with the territory.
Therefore, it’s not a stretch to imply that Jones has disgraced the industry as a whole.
Jason Floyd of The MMA Report told BrianEdwardsSports.com, “This is such a selfish move. I’ve never really understood why Jones is so disliked, but this certainly gives those haters lots of ammo. Even one of his teammates, Henry Martinez, who also fights out of Greg Jackson’s camp, didn’t get the news until contacted by a media member.
“This is a huge loss for Vegas. The only winner in this whole deal is Toronto.”
Jones’s image is already hurting after getting a DUI when he crashed his Bentley into a telephone pole at 5:00 a.m. earlier this summer. There were two women in the car with Jones and neither was his fiancé and mother of his two children.
In terms of the hits to his reputation with today’s developments and the DUI, Floyd said, “I’m not sure which is worse, but they’re both bad.”
The event in Toronto will now become UFC 151: Jones vs. Machida 2, instead of UFC 152. The previous main event featuring Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson for the flyweight title is now the co-main event.
Bovada is currently listing Jones as a minus-500 ‘chalk’ versus Machida, who is a plus-350 underdog (risk $100 to win $350).
Jones submitted Machida with a standing guillotine choke in Round 2 of their UFC 140 fight in Toronto. However, we scored Round 1 for Machida, who is the only UFC fighter to give Jones any semblance of trouble.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--According to multiple reports, middleweight contender Chris Weidman reached out to UFC matchmaker Joe Silva and volunteered to face Jones if needed.
--Many fighters were critical of Jones on Thursday. Joe Lauzon gave his take in this blog installment. It was announced earlier this week that Lauzon will face Gray Maynard at UFC 155.
--More thoughts from Dana White to the media this morning: “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.
“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.”
Brian Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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