August 23, 2012
UFC cancels Las Vegas card, Jones will fight in T.O.
By NEIL SPRINGER, Special to the QMI AGENCY
For the first time in the 11-plus years that Zuffa, LLC has owned the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a card has been cancelled.
UFC 151, which was set to take place Sept. 1 in Las Vegas and featured the anticipated light-heavyweight championship bout between Jon Jones and Dan Henderson, has been axed due to Henderson suffering a knee injury in training.
"This is probably one of my all-time lows as president of the UFC," Dana White said on a conference call Thursday. "Dan Henderson has a partial tear in his MCL and couldn't continue. He tried to train, he tried to continue to work out, he saw a doctor and there was nothing we could do to save that fight."
With the card officially cancelled, Vegas' loss is Toronto's gain.
Jones will now rematch Lyoto Machida at the Air Canada Centre Sept. 22. The card was originally dubbed UFC 152, but will be renamed UFC 151. The flyweight-championship bout between Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez will serve as co-main event.
"Machida's the next in line," White said. "Dan's hurt, so that's the fight that's going to happen.
"We've been waiting to add another fight to that card. Well, there you go. It didn't work out well for Vegas and it didn't work out well for this weekend, but it worked out beautifully for Toronto."
It almost didn't go down that way, though.
The Las Vegas event was almost salvaged when former middleweight-title contender Chael Sonnen agreed to face Jones, but the 205-pound champ turned down the bout in a move White called "disgusting."
"For somebody to fight Jon Jones on eight-days notice is tough to do," White said. "But to be totally honest with you guys, one guy did. Not only, when I called him, did he say, 'I'll take the fight.' He said, 'I'll fly to Las Vegas tonight and fight him.' And that was Chael Sonnen.
"The one thing that I never thought in a million years would happen, happened. 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 champion and considered one of the pound-for-pound best turns down a fight."
Not only did a clearly frustrated White lash out at Jones, he verbally attacked trainer Greg Jackson, who reportedly instructed his fighter to reject the offer.
"When (Jones) and I talked, he said, 'I have to sit down and talk to my coaches,'" White began. "His coach, Greg Jackson, says, 'There's no way you're taking this fight. You don't take this fight on eight-days notice. If you take this fight, it would be the biggest mistake of your entire career.'
"Wow. Chael Sonnen is a 185-pounder, who wants to move up to 205. He hasn't trained a day for this fight and the fight's in eight days and yet he says he will fly here tonight to fight the supposed pound-for-pound (No. 3) fighter in the world.
"I will go on the record and say it: (Jackson) is a f---ing sport killer. This guy's from another planet. I've never even seen anything like it in my life."
White admitted that not only has Jones strained relations with the UFC, he expects some fan backlash, as well.
"He burst onto the scene a year and a half ago and he's ripped through the top guys," White said. "He's been a champion that hasn't been very popular and I don't think this is going to do wonders for his popularity.
"As far as the relationship with us? Both me and Lorenzo (Fertitta) are disgusted."
So instead of facing Henderson in his next fight, he'll face Machida, who he submitted in their first encounter at UFC 140 Dec. 10 in Toronto. The karate specialist earned the No. 1 contender spot after a stunning knockout of Ryan Bader earlier this month.
White said he expects a fired-up challenger.
"I expect Machida to come out like somebody possessed," White said. "He's made it very clear to me ... how much this belt means to him and how bad he wants it back.
"He feels he did a lot of s--- wrong in the first fight -- obviously he did. He wants to correct that. So we'll see what happens.
"I don't know what to expect from Jon Jones anymore."
White said he originally reached out to Machida to salvage the Vegas card, but the former champion was already en route to Brazil.
"When things were going down and we were trying to make the fight, Machida was actually in the air," White said. "He then landed somewhere for a connector flight to Brazil. He was already gone.
"I can accept that. I can accept why Machida didn't take the fight. Completely different circumstances, completely different story."
As for Henderson, White said the 41-year-old legend will not require surgery, but may not be eligible for an immediate title shot upon his return. The previously scheduled co-main between Hieron and Ellenberger has been moved to UFC on FX 5 in Minneapolis Oct. 5. Stay tuned for further bout announcements.