The dramatic series of events started by yesterday’s UFC conference call, to announce the cancellation of UFC 151 has taken another twist. Jon Jones who was originally due to meet Dan Henderson at the originally scheduled UFC 151 next Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas has a new challenger for his belt and his name is not Lyoto Machida.
Less than 24 hours after it was announced that the UFC had to cancel next Saturday’s planned event due to Jon Jones refusing to fight a replacement fighter in Chael Sonnen on short notice after Dan Henderson pulled out of the original fight through injury. The UFC have now released a update on their website saying that Lyoto Machida who was expected to face the champion on September 22nd will now not be facing Jones. The news comes after the Brazilian turned down the opportunity to fight the champion. A statement from Machida’s camp is expected later today.
Jon Jones will now face another former champion in Vitor Belfort at the event still being referred to as UFC 152 in Toronto on September 22nd. It’s not yet known if this will be changed to UFC 151 with the loss of next week’s event. Belfort pulls out of a fight with Alan Belcher at middleweight that was expected to take place at UFC 153 in Rio, to move up and challenge for the light-heavyweight title.
The MMA world seems to be divided on the news of Jones’ decision with some being in support of it and others criticising the champion heavily. Twitter was a-buzz yesterday evening upon the announcement being made official.
Jones attempted to defend his decision whilst talking to MMA Junkie. “Dan Henderson got hurt, and the fight was canceled,” Jones told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “I signed a contract a long time ago to fight Dan Henderson.
That’s what I studied for, and that’s what I prepared myself for. To take a fight with a different opponent in which I would basically have three days of training before traveling and then starting to cut weight I just thought would be the dumbest idea ever. I wouldn’t have been properly prepared.”
He went on to further justify his decision by comparing the styles of Henderson and Sonnen. “Chael is completely different fighter,” Jones said. “This is war. This is strategy. You have to go in there prepared and know that you did your homework. I wouldn’t be the same warrior if I just jumped in there blindly and was cutting weight while I was trying to prepare for the fight.
“Greg Jackson wasn’t going to show up until Friday. Coach (Mike) Winkeljohn wasn’t going to be there until Wednesday or Thursday. I would have been pretty much on my own trying to prepare for a new opponent. That’s just not the best way to prepare.”
Jones later stated in the interview with MMA Junkie that he would have fought Sonnen on the September 22nd card if that had been possible. “Dan Henderson got hurt, and our fight was canceled. As difficult as it is to deal with everything that’s happened, I just didn’t feel like I had enough time to prepare both physically and mentally for a fight with a new opponent. I just didn’t feel I had enough to prepare properly and perform at my best. Whether Chael Sonnen actually deserves a title shot really isn’t my place to say. But if he wants to fight on September 22, then I’m fine with that.”
Jones apologised to his fans and fellow fighters but remained avid that he did not cancel the event. “I definitely apologize to the other fighters on the card,” Jones said. “I feel terrible, but it also wasn’t my decision to cancel the whole card. I don’t make those decisions.
I apologize to the people that lost money on tickets and travel and things like that,” Jones said. “I don’t apologize for my decision, but I do apologize for the way it affected people. I hope people can understand I was just trying to do the best thing for my career.
The cancellation of UFC marked two firsts in the organisation’s history according to UFC President Dana White. The first time a champion has turned down a fight and the first time that they’ve had to cancel an event in the 11 years that they’ve ran the promotion.