Blindly Defending Fighters a Puzzling Phenomenon

That hand looks good to me! (Photo by Andy Marlin/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

A lot of the goodwill Jon Jones generated in his rise from promising prospect to UFC champion dissipated this past week when he announced that he would not undergo surgery to repair torn tissue between the thumb and forefinger in his right hand.

Fans felt hoodwinked. Jones announced surgery caused the cancellation of his grudge match with ex-teammate Rashad Evans, only to rescind following the news that Evans would fight Phil Davis instead.

In a larger piece about fan reaction to recent UFC injuries, Mike Chiappetta played apologist for Jones:

And finally, the case of Jones is perhaps the most confusing. Jones' announcement was good news: he wasn't having surgery. ... Essentially, he announced he'd return sooner than originally thought, yet some people are mad about it. Umm, wouldn't this actually be a cause for celebration?

Avoiding surgery is a good thing, but there's no cause for celebration when Jones said, "[I]t doesn't affect my punching or grappling," when explaining his decision to opt for the procedure.

No one can fault him for wanting to take care of his hand, especially if his title victory provided the resources necessary to do so. The issue with fans, however, is that he put off a near-official fight to undergo elective surgery, then decided the surgery wasn't necessary.

Jones saw multiple doctors, and finally, in a follow-up, he found one that told him he could continue on without surgery. But that isn't good enough for some, as though Jones has a medical degree and should have foreseen the solution before it arrived.

Again, Chiappetta largely misses the source of fan frustrations. No one expects Jones to diagnose his injury and repair the goddamn thing himself.

The issue here is PR management. (As an aside, I'd like to point out Malki Kawa's tweet linking this piece. "Real media" is a euphemism for articles that take your side, kids.) Kawa claims that Jones visited with doctors referred by the UFC, who recommended surgery. Then, the doctor who would perform the operation explained that the surgery wasn't necessary because Jones had full range in his hand without much pain.

So, for starters, why was the fight called off before visiting the surgeon who would perform the operation? If Jones is pulling out of the fight, shouldn't you make sure there was a date for said surgery?

In addition, Kawa also should have never let Jones discuss the severity of his injury. In a vacuum, there's no reason to fault Jones for wanting to rehab his hand, especially after taking the Shogun fight on short notice, but those statements look worse and worse in retrospect.

Finally, Kawa tweeted that Jones would not have enough time to prepare for a bout on August 6, claiming June 11 (the date doctors would clear Jones to fight) gives him less than eight weeks of training. Except that June 11 to August 6 is exactly 56 days, or 8 weeks. The statement makes Kawa look like a liar or a fool, and I'm not sure which is worse for him at this point.

When the hype and the man-made controversy of injury announcements are stripped away, the reality of the situation is quite different.

Except the reality of this situation is that Jones pulled out of a fight with an injury that he explicitly admitted had no effect on his performance. A doctor then tells Jones that they'll stabilize the thumb, and that as long as Jones felt good after 30 days (God willing!), he would be cleared to fight (which, if Jones wanted a full eight-week camp, would give him enough time to prepare for UFC 133).

That is the reality of the situation, and that is why fans are angry.

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