Today for the first time mma fans experienced what we in the boxing world have been experiencing for so long it has become common place. UFC 151 and the much anticipated match up between Jon Jones and Dan Henderson has been cancelled in its entirety because Jones refused to fight Chael Sonnen on eight days request, a decision made in part by Jones and his trainer Greg Jackson; who has a weird Muppet style troll face.
This breaking news sent shock waves through the mma world because up until today no fighter has ever exercised this much power over his own career before. Dana White said it best when he said not even Tito Ortiz who was by far his most difficult fighter in terms of business dealings turned down a fight based on his own personal agenda.
Jon Jones did what Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto and other super stars in boxing do on a daily basis. With great super stardom and bookoo grip in the bank comes a new found sense of freedom; especially for minority fighters. The reason why Floyd Mayweather can pick and choose who he wants to fight, the reason why Floyd can retire and un-retire when he chooses, the reason why Floyd doesn't need a binding relationship with Golden Boy but instead enjoys an unofficial partnership is because Floyd Mayweather if Floyd Mayweather. He's the highest paid athlete in the world (And you guys say boxing is dead, Manny Pacquiao is #2). Floyd generates more economic growth for the city of Las Vegas than 15 UFC PPV events combined over the last year.
He said it best during an interview on ESPN: "I move whenever I want to move" That pretty much sums up the whole picture right there. Floyd is the money man, the top attraction in all of combat sports by leaps and bounds. He can virtually do whatever he wants. Alfredo Angulo served a full sentence in a detention center and he wasn't guilty of a crime, Floyd pleaded guilty for domestic violence charges and only served three months of a 90 day jail sentence.
"I move whenever I want to move". Jon Jones is moving whenever he wants to move because he knows exactly where he stands in the sport of mixed martial arts. Jon Jones believes he's bigger than mma; bigger than the UFC. Dana White won't cut Jon Jones and Jones knows that because he's the most dominant force in the game right now. This isn't Tito Ortiz throwing tantrums or past fighters trying to flex muscle with no real soapbox to stand on. Jon Jones is the number one star in mma; and the UFC's only legitimate mainstream super star. He's not taking his queues from the Zuffa front office anymore. He's making his own decisions and in turn exposing a lot of fighters who quite honestly will never have that kind of juice. There are more under card guys in the UFC than there are star fighters and they feel like Jones is taking food out of their mouth for selfish reasons; and he is.
But as Floyd Mayweather said in an interview with Bob Costas, "It's about self preservation, and Floyd Mayweather has to be happy."
MMA fans are used to this and it shows through the exaggerated reaction. To boxing fans we're not shocked by this because this is our world. You know how many fights were called off because fighters went off the reservation and imposed their freedoms on others? Huge example of this was the fight or supposed fight between Brandon Rios and Yuriorkis Gamboa. The contracts were printed up, fans were salivating, the boxing world needed this fight, and what happened? Little Tyson Yuriorkis Gamboa went and decided he wanted out of Top Rank and didn't feel comfortable with the terms of the contract to fight Rios. As a result the fight was called off, Gamboa sued Top Rank they sued him, and we fans were denied one of the biggest fights in boxing. Instead we got Richard Abril v Brandon Rios and Rios got a Christmas gift decision from the judges after he missed weight for the second time.
You know that's why I've always said this fight league crap ain't gonna work. Man these guys want to control their own careers because contrary to what Dana White said yes these guys are business men. Their bodies, their hands, feet, submission game, whatever, that is their business. Frank Shamrock was exactly right when he said fighters need to learn how to be their own brand and to approach their careers like such. Miguel Cotto the great Puerto Rican super star puts thirty thousand people in Yankee Stadium when he fought Yuri Foreman, he can turn down fights with Sergio Martinez and Canelo Alvarez. Cotto sells out the Garden every time he fights there; he's endorsed by Ecko Unlimited. Miguel Cotto is brand, not just a fighter.
Bernard Hopkins said quote, "I'm the middleweight champion of the world, and the least they can pay me is ten million dollars; I know who I am" They say Bernard did his way when it came to his career and how he handled his brand. In the meantime he burned a lot of bridges but that's the choice you make. Roy Jones Jr. became one of the biggest mega stars in sports during the 1990s because he was his own brand. Roy Jones understood the business aspect of being Roy Jones Jr. The man was named fighter of an entire decade (1990s).
So while I understand and sympathize with the outrage from a lot of mma fans and media, what Jon Jones did is no small hiccup. He shattered the mold in my view because he exercised complete control over his career in a promotion where freedom is like the unicorn; don't exist. The UFC likes to tout it's organization and it's fluidity but it comes at the hefty price of fighter's freedom and their optional discretion. Let's face it, had this been a Jake Shields or a Brandon Vera they would have been cut. I feel bad for the under card fighters because now they miss a payday through no fault of their own. Jon Jones shut down an entire event like it was nothing; and will still have a job come Friday, now that's gangsta.
"Bones Knows" his worth