An article posted yesterday on MMA Weekly focused on UFC president Dana White and his issues as of late with Cheick Kongo for turning down fights. Dana questioned Cheick and other fighters who have refused short notice fights (Kongo specified that he turned down a fight with Roy Nelson because of short notice) and if they truly are "fighters."
From the article:
"(Kongo) turned down the fight whether it was on short notice or whatever. It’s the second fight he’s turned down in a row," White declared on Saturday night.
"It’s a lot more normal with guys who are worried about losing," White explained. "Guys who are in a position where if they lose, you know what I mean? You’re either fighters or you’re not. If you win you win, if you lose, back to the drawing board.
"That’s the business you’re in. When you turn down a fight, you turn down a fight, and that’s two in a row (for Kongo). I don’t know who he’s waiting for."
This is not the first time this has come up with Dana, he took some shots at Kongo and others before UFC 154:
From the video:
It's like...we're just at this time and place where I've been dealing with these guys for the last ten years. I've been doing this for thirteen years...there was a ten year run where guys didn't turn down fights. I mean, the biggest fight that was ever turned down in my first ten years was Tito not wanting to fight Chuck. Now, like every week, Kongo has turned down two fights in a row. We offered Kongo the fight with Roy Nelson and he refused to do it. And we offered him a fight before that and he refused to do it.
It's like, we're getting into this era now with these guys and yeah, it bothers me. And yeah, I don't like it. I kind of...you know...it turns me off to guys when they don't want to step up and take big fights.
I've been doing these interviews all week and I'm tired...I'm sick and tired of the accusations that Chael Sonnen is getting into things because he talks. Chael Sonnen gets big fights because he steps up and he takes fights on short notice. He's the kind of guy I've been dealing with since we bought the UFC. And you've got all these bitter babies out there crying like Dan Henderson. Dan Henderson, who's supposed to be friends with him, what are you crying about? You turned down the Jones fight twice. You had to pull out because of your knee. He said all you need is a couple of weeks, then I offered him the fight in Toronto. He turned down the Toronto fight too because of his knee. Are we supposed to sit around and wait for Dan Henderson?
Of course, what Dana is leaving out here is the word "professional." These are professional fighters who have to make decisions based on what they think is best for their careers. Kongo has quietly put together arguably the best stretch of his career, going 4-1-1 since 2010 against some recognizable names. If he feels that right now it's not smart for him to take a late notice fight and risk a loss that sets him back considerably, that's a professional decision.
Similarly, the problem Dan Henderson and others have with the Chael Sonnen fight has nothing to do with previously offered short notice fights with Jones. Guys turned down a fight that they were in line for because it wasn't smart to take it on short notice or, in the case of Henderson, because he wasn't healed from an injury. That makes the short notice fight with Vitor Belfort something that made sense. It doesn't make a fight with Chael Sonnen in April 2013 make sense. That's plenty of time for someone to have had a full camp and be healthy.
Of course Sonnen is willing to "step up." He has nothing to lose. He has no chance at a title a 185 at this point. At 205 there are a host of horrible fights for him that would have stopped him from getting a title shot. Sure, he'd step up and take a fight for a title at a weight he hasn't fought at in the UFC since 2005 after a brutal loss in his last fight. Why not?
Ultimately, this is where fighters have very little power with the way the sport is structured. Dana gets to act as though they need to make decisions that they may feel are wrong for their career and thus bad for their families and futures. And, if they don't operate with that mentality that the UFC's health is more important than their own, they are punished.
A guy like Kongo gets to choose between taking a fight in a situation where he isn't comfortable, or being publicly shamed and, as suggested by Dana, suffering for his decision.
These aren't just fighters. They're professional fighters. Every decision they make needs to be one where they weigh the pros and cons and do the right thing to ensure that they get the most out of their career. There isn't a UFC pension plan, there's no 401K with corporate matching. It's here and now, make what you can while you can. And it's a damn shame that Dana White would put fighters in a position that makes it so clear that they are little more than spots on a fight card.