Originally, Jon Jones
was supposed to fight Rashad Evans
at UFC 133 in August. Now, as we have learned, that fight is not happening because Jones (re-)injured his hand while beating on Shogun as if he was the Pinata that insulted his girlfriend. No big deal. If Fedor can break his hand every second fight or so, surely Jones can take some time off after taking two big fights within less than two months time. Plus, it is conveniently in line with my first fanpost
in which I suggested that the UFC will never come down harder on PEDs unless they are forced by external pressure to do so – simply because they profit from any PED-use that will help fighters recover from injury faster (and most other PED use as well, as long as it is done responsibly).
The Jones injury however gets a lot of scrutiny from the fans. The timing of the injury seems a bit too convenient to some (as did helping run down a thief right before your championship fight
). Maybe Jones wants more time to change up his game that Rashad is supposedly so familiar with? Is Greg Jacksons youngest champ trying to play more mind-games with "Suga"? Is he hoping for a Phil Davis
win, so he doesn’t have to fight Rashad in the first place? The answer, to all these questions, is: no. Jones did not know who the UFC would replace Rashad with or if Rashad would take an in-between-fight at all. He’s also riding a wave of success while Rashad comes back ring-rusty from a layoff so long, it will feel like a ABBA re-union when he fights again. So the best time to fight him is right now, not after a potential win against Mr. Wonderful (who will also only get better over time and with more Ocatgon-experience). The operation itself must be legit to begin with because it would be impossible for Jones to not have it while using it as an excuse in the talky world of MMA-fighting. There’s no ducking Rashad here. Not because Jones is such an upstanding guy and we should trust him, but because it just does not make any sense to assume so.
However, the conspiracy-theories led me to another fascinating suspicion: Is it possible, that the business-advisors most champions have would actually try to make sure and limit their fights as much as possible – potentially through means like "let’s have that surgery now"? After all, once you have the belt, you’re on top. Now your goal changes from "become the champ asap!" to "stay on top as long as possible". Meaning: "keep the belt as long as possible", not "defeat as many challengers as possible". Because as long as you can wrap that shiny thing around your waist, more shiny things will be waiting down the road. Every time you have to defend the damn thing though holds the threat of losing it. An interesting question, to me, would be: would it be wise for a champ to minimize the number of title-defenses per year?
This depends on a number of factors of course. First: how old is the champ and how much money does he make per title-defense. If your athletic window is closing, you may want to compete more often and get that win-bonus while you still can. Secondly it depends heavily on how much money you get just for being the champ – i.e. how does your sponsorship-money compare to what you earn by fighting. Third: how deep is your division in terms of popular fighters in contention. Because delaying your title-shot can make sense if you are raking in lots of cash from sponsors and other money you can get by virtue of your championship-status. Also, fewer fights mean more build-up and more time for the promotion to establish legitimate contenders which may result in a bigger payday for a champ who gets a PPV-cut and stuff like that.
Looking at this though, I don’t really see it at the moment. I doubt that MMA-fighters make so much sponsor- or ad-money, that they would truly earn as much as they would by fighting even just once more. Maybe if a lucrative contract expired as soon as they lose the belt, it might make sense. But generally, I’d doubt it. Secondly, it certainly does not apply to Jon Jones who will not be anywhere near generating that much cash from anything but fighting. Actually, since he is still building his brand, he probably wants to fight as much as possible. I think, what we’re seeing here is Jones taking a short break and undergoing a necessary surgery that he’d have to do at some point in his life at anyway at the most convenient moment: right after reaching the summit in the UFC LHW division. He’s on top now and he will not be forgotten, even if he takes himself out of the game for several months. If he fights and loses the belt, this layoff would hurt his momentum even more, so this is the best time to do it. It’s also an effect of Jones being such a young champion. Only in his early 20ies, he simply knows he has the time to do this while he’s taking time off of most of his current competitors prime-years. And maybe he also just learned a lesson from Shogun Rua who seemingly never knew how or was never able to pace himself, to allow for time to heal and seek proper treatment. Taking good care of his body from the start is making a lot of sense for Jones, as disappointing as it may be for his fans(and haters) to wait for his return or - even more disappointing - if all this discards my beautiful conspiracy-theory. Maybe you guys have better ones though and I'd love to hear and discuss them in the comments.