News broke today that Jon Jones has pulled out of his upcoming light heavyweight title defense against Rashad Evans, apparently due to ligering hand injury incurred in his UFC 128 title fight with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Evans will instead face Phil Davis in a non-title fight.
Given the circumstances of the situation and statements made in the past by Jones, his recent decision arguably deserves some scrutiny.
UFC 128 took place over one month ago. Jones mentioned having injured his hand in some post-fight interviews and received an indefinite medical suspension pending X-ray, MRI, and orthopedic clearance of his right hand. A torn ligament was cited as the reason for Jones now pulling out of UFC 133, scheduled for August 5th, almost fifteen weeks away. Mike Fagan referenced MDAdvice.com which suggests a 6 to 10 week recovery period for torn ligaments. This would clearly create time constraints for Jones to rehab the injury and then get a minimum ideal of training camp of 8 weeks, especially for a title fight.
What brings Jones' injury claim into question are his previous statements regarding competing against fellow Jackson's MMA fighters. In an April 5, 2010 MMA Scraps Radio interview with Pat Barry (then a host of the show), Jon Jones discussed fighting teammates and stated that he would fake an injury to avoid fighting Rashad Evans (emphasis below is mine):
"I just think there’s lots of ways around it. You know, you could fake injuries. You could do anything. I mean, there’s just so many ways around it, you know?"
It seems unlikely that the injury is not genuine given the documented medical suspension following UFC 128, but the unusually long delay in determining that it would impact the upcoming bout may point to an exageration and its use as a convenient excuse now that Evans' strong emotional reaction has become evident. Given alleged past occurances by other fighters of faking injuries to avoid fights, Jones' remarks last year, and the intense reaction the Jones-Evans matchup has elicited, the issue raises interesting questions and deserves further investigation.
The injury is real and Jones will be receiving surgery, but according to Jones himself "it doesn’t affect my punching or grappling". Essentially, he is having elective surgery and will be able to call himself Champion for an extra several months before even having to defend the title (which can translate into big money down the road). Matthew Roth at Head Kick Legend noted that Jones' marriage is upcoming and speculated that this may also be a contract negotiation ploy.
Rashad Evans, who not long ago was about to challenge Shogun as a favorite, is now in the position of having to face a tough Phil Davis in a non-title fight with a year's ring rust just to re-earn the shot as a big underdog to Jon Jones (while dealing with a new camp and fighting at a time of Jones' choosing). Ouch.
Audio after the jump. (HT: MMA Scraps Radio / Youtube)