Let me say now that I’ve never been the champion of anything. The peak of my competitive success was UFC-related, but it was a video game, and while having a 100-20 online record meant a hell of a lot to me, it came with no responsibilities or glory outside of my bedroom. That lack of real perspective aside, I side with the latter camp. You earn the title by beating the line of guys standing in front of you; once you’re there, I don’t think you get to decide who stands in line behind you.
Being champion with a lack of marketable, talented opponents would be a very frustrating dilemma, I get that. You’re the best at what you do, you have an enormous desire to prove you deserve all the money, fame, pride and respect you earn doing it. Having to settle for opponents you know put in less work than you did to get to your place in the sport would be an insult. But, as Jones is learning now, the fame and respect aren’t granted de facto as champ, and guys like Rich Franklin prove you can have a lucrative, exciting career after you’ve lost the title to some dude with one UFC fight under his belt.
If Chris Weidman is the next guy in line, Anderson Silva should be eager to prove he isn’t in the same league. If Jon Jones’ opponent has to bow out, then whoever the get to replace him was even further back in line, so bring it on. Skilled, top-tier talent has all the right in the world to demand high-profile, high-dollar fights, they should just do it without the belt if it’s too much hassle to defend it.