"Just to clear the record i've never turn down a mma fight against anyone and never will," Jones tweeted.
Perhaps that was in the back of UFC president Dana White's mind on Thursday, when he openly criticized the light heavyweight champion for refusing to fight Chael Sonnen in place of Dan Henderson after Henderson suffered an injury.
"The one thing that I never thought in a million years would happen, happened," White said. "Jon Jones said, 'I'm not fighting Chael Sonnen with eight days' notice.' Again, something that's never happened in UFC history –- a guy who's a world champion and considered one of the pound-for-pound best -– turns down a fight."
Jones' refusal, which White calls one of the sport's "all-time lows," was based on advice from trainer Greg Jackson. It not only led to White's disapproval, but it resulted in the cancellation of UFC 151 — the first cancellation of an event in UFC's history. It's also led to some serious Twitter backlash, and tons and tons of money stands to be lost by the company as a result of Jones not stepping up to the challenge.
But how realistic was White in expecting Jones to fight Sonnen on such short notice?
Yes, Jones made that now infamous promise. Yes, he's the champion. Yes, his reputation is going to take a serious hit. Yes, him turning down the fight is going to negatively impact UFC as a whole. But while White might not have been asking for the moon per se, his request still requires a major adjustment from Jones. And with only eight days left to prepare, that also means a huge gamble for Jones, so expecting him to graciously accept the switcheroo is simply irrational.
In fact, that's what a lot of people, including White, have become in this whole situation: irrational.
"UFC 151 will be remembered as the event Jon Jones and Greg Jackson murdered," White said in a press release.
Sure, the whole "the show must go on" mantra is nice, rousing, encouraging and, obviously (judging by the response), expected when it comes to a champion, but it should hardly be the reason a professional fighter is absolutely obliterated publicly. That's especially true when the initial problem arose from something pertaining to his opponent.
Obviously, Henderson isn't to blame in this situation. You can't say to a guy, "You shouldn't have gotten hurt." But Jones has suddenly been labeled this villain for not adjusting to something that was completely out of his control. That's a stark contrast from agreeing to fight and fighting Henderson, all of which was very much in his control.
The thing with UFC is we have these visions of these warriors who are willing to go toe-to-toe with anyone, anywhere, any time, any place. A vast majority of UFC fighters probably subscribe to that mentality, but, just as is the case when someone gets seriously injured in the octagon, we sometimes need a reminder of what's at stake.
After having trained for Henderson the entire time, Jones was suddenly expected to put his title, health and future on the line against a fighter who's younger and arguably better than Henderson with just over a week's notice. If Jones accepted and lost, much of his hard work would be flushed down the toilet, and we'd be left wondering whether Jones would still be champion if he had ample time to prepare for Sonnen specifically. If Jones emerged victorious, it would be the expected outcome and the lingering question would be, "Would Henderson have defeated Jones?" Really, there wasn't much for Jones to gain from fighting Sonnen, but there was certainly plenty to lose.
Unfortunately for Jones, he's still leaving a "loser" after turning down the Sonnen fight, as he's suffering from the perils of MMA. By acting in what he and his trainer believe to be his best interests, Jones has upset the masses, which in turn hurts his reputation. White is obviously furious because he feels Jones isn't being a team player, so to speak, and fans are suddenly looking at Jones as a cowardice champion. It's really quite the predicament, and one that Jones will just have to brush aside going forward.
Days ago, Jones was the heavy favorite for his upcoming match. Now, he's in the midst of a fight against society. It's one he didn't bargain for, and it's one he has no chance of winning.
Photo via Facebook/Jon "Bones" Jones