TORONTO - The more you think about it, the more you see how he has handled all the venom, the more you realize how righteous UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon (Bones) Jones has been.
Jones, who puts his belt on the line Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre against Brazilian legend Vitor Belfort at UFC 152, has been hammered the past few weeks for refusing to dance for ĎThe Maní, UFC president Dana White, who runs the UFC like Captain Bligh ran the HMS Bounty.
White ripped Jones for the New York fighterís unwillingness to fight Chael Sonnen at the last minute at UFC 151 earlier this month. Itís an overblown story, but the bottom line was this: Jonesí original opponent, Dan Henderson, had to withdraw because of injury, and the UFC tossed in Sonnen as a replacement. But Jones turned down Sonnen and UFC 151 was cancelled.
White and his UFC backers lost millions of dollars and worse, they lost face. Time and again, weíve heard White brag about how the UFC is a rocket ship to the moon is and howís itís leaving traditional sports in its dust. So having to cancel a major card after a series of sub-par cards and other lesser controversies did not sit will with White, who then turned against arguably his best fighter.
And then, right on cue, like trained seals, a great many UFC fans also turned against Jones and suddenly heís a terrible person and champion. The youngest champion UFC history was booed at the official UFC 152 weigh-ins at the Mattamy Athletic Centre at The Gardens (the old Maple Leaf Gardens) on Friday afternoon. If youíre a UFC champion, apparently youíre not supposed have a brain.
The knock against Jones was unfair. It is, or at least it should be, the championís right (unless an outright mandatory defence) to be able to pick and choose his challenger from a list of top-ranked contenders. The way the UFC operates (which is a problem I believe) is that White ultimately calls the shots when it comes to the matchmaking. White demands a certain matchup, and if one of the fighters believes itís not the right match-up for him, heís dragged through the mud.
As Jones put it earlier in the week, heís the one putting body on the line inside the Octagon, not White. Heís the one getting kicked in the leg and elbowed in the head, not White. Heís the fighter, heís the champion, heís the one who would know best what opponent is right for him. Sure we all want to see the best possible fightsó everybodyís hoping for GSP and Anderson Silva ó but Jones has been a true champion, by and large, and if he felt that Sonnen (on short notice) was not the right opponent, then more power to him.
Turning on his fighters, particularly his champions, is a game that White canít win in the long run. At the end of the day, who do fans remember, Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson or the president of the WBC? If White continues to alienate his best fighters, there will be a time when they start turning against him, and wonít be as forgiving as Jones has been this week in Toronto.
The two met on Friday in Toronto to discus their differences. White said beforehand that Jones will not get an apology while Jones said he forgives the UFC prez and hopes the two will get back on the same page going forward. Basically taking the high road like a champion.