As stated in the headline, this article is mostly free of the subject of Jon Jones. We have all made our stances on the issue clear. We've all debated them. You know where I stand. I don't think he had a contractual, nor moral, obligation to take the fight.
What I want to focus on are those elements which have been overlooked in the arguments over Jones. Specifically, I'll focus on the decreasing willingness of MMA fans to demand quality product. What's more, I want to place the spotlight on those that have raised expectations for themselves by their reactions to the cancellation of UFC 151. Say what you will about Jones--and yes he will be in the spotlight at UFC 152--but fans fully expect him to bring it in that Octagon. So let that be the last time the name Jon Jones is stated in this post!
Fan Demand and Zuffa
It's apparent, by now, that Zuffa takes its fans for granted. At least that's the impression being given as long as Dana White is allowed to act as the face of the organization. Dana has taken MMA to new heights, but seems to be operating under the false assumption that past accomplishments guarantee future success. White has it in his head that he is a genius, not to be questioned, that can do no wrong. Witness his failure to take responsibility, or personally apologize to the fans, for the cancellation of UFC 151.
Unfortunately, many fans have been conditioned to put up with Dana's abuse. After the Maia vs. Silva disaster, Dana promised to "make it up" to the fans. Not only did that never happen, but Dana portrayed anyone who questioned him on his promise as whiners. "Get over it," has become Dana's mantra for dealing with discontent fans. Fans complaining about the declining quality of fight cards have been told just that. They've been portrayed as whiners and fake fans, by Dana.
By cancelling UFC 151, Dana acknowledged through his actions what a segment of fans have complained about for some time now. Dana was caught trying to do what he accused boxing of doing: selling a weak card solely off of the strength of the main event. Sadly, instead of calling Dana out on this, most fans have been content to let Dana slide on this one, instead arguing about issues (Responsibility to take short notice fights, the heart of a champion, the livelihood of under-card fighters, etc..) that have less direct impact on the fan base. What is lost in all of this is that UFC 152 is shaping up to be a worthwhile card. The fan is getting a better product for the money. That should not be overlooked, nor the fact that it took such drastic measures for Zuffa to give us this quality event. Sadly, for the most part, it has been. The fan base missed an opportunity here. Zuffa is going to get away with what we let them get away with. This was a chance to hold their feet to the fire over the issue of increasingly lackluster cards. We blew it.
The Fans and the MMA Media
The MMA media is experiencing a crisis of integrity. By and large, that statement is applicable from the lowliest blogger to the best interviewer in MMA. The media has a duty to demand answers to the tough questions from Zuffa, and it is in our best interests, as fans, that we demand that they do. That is not happening.
Journalists have traded in their integrity for Zuffa access. They are the bought and paid parrots of the organization. They are an extension of Zuffa's public relations department in the guise of unbiased professionals. Look no further than Dana's press conference for the cancelling of UFC 151 for proof of this. When one reporter deviated from script, having the nerve to press Dana for specifics on what he would do should a fight with Machida not be accepted, Dana berated him for asking stupid questions. That's what happens when you get away from the narrative the company is trying to establish. Of all the journalists there, I can count on a mangled hand the number of those that questioned Dana on the culpability having a weak card played in UFC 151's cancellation.
If MMA journalists have lost credibility, don't expect too much from MMA bloggers. There is no shortage of poorly written blogs, blogs that are nothing more than reactionary nonsense, inaccurate blogs, and blogs that are deliberately deceptive for the purpose of gaining views. To be blunt, a lot of professional bloggers come off no different than some of the irate trolls that lurk in the comments sections.
Again, we bare some of the blame here for allowing this. There are sites out there (and you know which ones) that directly appeal to the idea of "dumbing down." Intelligent analysis and conversation are traded for a no-holds-barred atmosphere of vacuous commentary and the constant trading of insults. As long as we accept degrading quality, that is what we will get.
Heightened Expectations in the Aftermath of UFC 151
Zuffa: For the first time, the UFC was forced to cancel a card. Though they managed to deflect most of the blame from their weak card, expect this to be an issue going forward if they do not improve the quality of their cards. They won't always have a lightning rod scapegoat to turn to for their failures.
Dana White: Dana didn't hesitate to invoke the plight of lower paid fighters, during his orchestrated character assassination. That might be a win for him now, but expect his words to come back to bite him in the rear from here on out whenever he makes a business decision that negatively impacts lower paid fighters.
Charlie Brenneman: Charlie broke into MMA around the same time as the fighter he readily blames for the cancellation of UFC 151. It's one thing for fans to feel sorry for you. It's quite another for you yourself to expect another fighter to be responsible for your ability to earn and take care of your personal responsibilities as a man. The longer he complains about what another man isn't doing so that he can feed his family, the more open he is going to be to questions of just what it is he is doing to be enough of a star that the UFC doesn't have to cancel an event he is on. A 4-3 record in the UFC, with all wins coming by way of decision and all losses coming by stoppage, doesn't cut it. At UFC 152, Charlie is going to have to take charge of his own destiny, or risk becoming a .500 fighter who has to ride the coattails of other fighters' success to earn a living.
Chael P. Sonnen: The Original Oregonian Gangster certainly was in an awfully convenient position to come off as the hero in this one, no? Despite all of that, a loss to Griffin will cement his status as an overrated loudmouth who tries to talk his way into title fights he doesn't deserve.
Fans who complained about fighters losing a pay day: If you jumped aboard the outrage train and joined those that ranted and raved about a selfish decision costing fighters lower down on the card a payday, don't go streaming or engaging in any other illegal means to watch a UFC PPV for free. Put your money where your mouth is.