Despite having what many (including myself) feel is, without a doubt, the greatest year in the history of mixed martial arts, Jon Jones did not receive a single vote in the AP vote for Athlete of the Year. To Mike Chiapetta of MMA Fighting, this was proof that it is the mainstream that needs to catch up to MMA, not vice versa.
From the article:
I'm not arguing that Jones should have won the award. The winner, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, had an amazing calendar year. He won the Super Bowl, led his team to a 19-game win streak and has them in position to possibly repeat. Runner-up Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers won both the American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards, the first pitcher to do that in 27 years. Third-place went to tennis star Novak Djokovic, who won 10 tournaments -- including three majors -- and finished the year with an exceptional 70-6 record.
Jones, MMA Fighting's Fighter of the Year, had arguably the best calendar year in MMA history, winning four matches overall, defeating three former UFC champions and becoming the youngest title holder in UFC history. He wasn't exactly invisible doing it, either. He was a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and on the day of his title win, helped thwart a robbery, an act that resulted in major national attention.
If a boxer like Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather put together a year like that, you better believe that they would have earned votes.
But because Jones fights in a cage instead of a ring, his accomplishments go unappreciated and unrecognized. It's not like this was a small sample size; 212 alleged experts in sports cast ballots for the award.
The problem with saying this is an example of a larger ignorance of MMA is that to vote for Jones meant that the voters would have had to have not voted for who they truly felt was deserving of the award. Yes, maybe some (most) of the voters are ignorant of MMA, but would more information have caused them to vote for Jones over Rogers? Is a courtesy vote really that important?
And I'd also like to address the idea that a boxer would receive consideration. In 2008, Manny Pacquiao defeated Juan Manuel Marquez in a title bout at 130 pounds in a battle between two of the top three pound for pound fighters in the sport. Manny then went up to 135 and beat one of the top two lightweights in the world in David Diaz to capture a title, then went all the way up to 147 and decimated Oscar De La Hoya in a huge fight. He also received zero AP Athlete of the Year votes.
Manny would get some votes in 2010, a year where he beat a very overmatched, no-name Joshua Clottey and a badly tainted Antonio Margarito. A much less impressive year than 2008.
The difference between 2008 and 2010? Manny was mainstream.
It's a mainstream sports award. Yes, someone cast a vote for surfer Kelly Slater and another for indy car racer Dario Franchitti, but those are guys with years and years of dominance in their sport. Those are also votes likely by someone with a specific agenda (especially the Slater vote). There was simply no bigger mainstream sports star more deserving of the title than Aaron Rogers (or maybe Justin Verlander) so it seems like the voting did the job it is actually supposed to do.
Again, I just can't find a reason to truly care that no one cast a vote for Jones. Maybe with a few more years of dominance and additional mainstream attention from the Fox deal, we'll see Jones get some votes. But one big year in a fringe combat sport (boxing or MMA) isn't enough to get the votes right now.