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By Wade Keller, MMATorch Supervising Editor
Here are some thoughts on today's big story regarding the cancelation of UFC 151 due to Dan Henderson's injury and then Jon Jones's subsequent refusal to fight Chael Sonnen instead...
-Jon Jones is taking heat, and I understand the perspective - although I disagree with those upset at him. As UFC Champion, some might argue, he should be ready for any and all challengers as a fight approaches, knowing that injuries can happen.
The counter-argument, though, is that the sport of MMA has evolved just too much to ask that of fighters. Fighters train for a specific opponent. If they are going to be asked to train for a Scheduled Opponent in addition to a possible Substitution Opponent, they need to know that's expected of them. Instead, it's been an option to take or turn down a change in opponent.
If UFC wants to change the policy and list a champion as being contractually obligated to train for and prepare for both a Scheduled Opponent and a list of one or two Substitute Opponents, then that's different. Jones wasn't preparing for anything but Dan Henderson.
The championship is too important, and Chael Sonnen too dangerous, to expect Jones to face Sonnen without having a full camp preparing - through studying his style and specific physical preparation - for Sonnen.
If a title weren't on the line, and if promises could be made that a loss wouldn't be held against him, I could see greater justification for being upset with Jones. Losing the title because he didn't have time to properly prepare is just not a fair risk to ask him to take.
-If Dana White wants to avoid this in the future, then here's one of what I'm sure will be many helpful suggestions from many people in coming days. From now on, don't ever book one-match shows (i.e. a show reliant on one fight to be a worthy PPV). Ideally, be three fights deep where any one stiff justifies it being a PPV event. Also, always have the champion, as noted above, preparing to fight not only his scheduled opponent, but two back-ups, ideally two back-ups who are scheduled against one another on the undercard so they have a reason to train besides counting on an injury before being given a fight.
Also, perhaps cut back on the number of PPV events so cards can be more "loaded" so that, for instance, it can survive the loss of any single fight, and ideally the loss of any two fights. If a fight card loses two top fights, FX or Fuel should be on standby to air the event free.
That way the undercard fighters still can fight as scheduled and the fans who bought airline tickets and booked hotels and took vacation time can still at least see a live event. I don't think UFC owes those fans a refund if there are injuries any more than the NFL does if a star quarterback goes down days before a big game.
(Wade Keller is Supervising Editor of MMATorch.com. He has been covering the sport of MMA in the Torch Newsletter since before UFC1. He attended as credentialed media UFC's debut in Las Vegas, Nev. in September 2001. He has over a decade of training in Tae Kwan Do and is a double-black-stripe belt and has also trained at North Star Martial Arts Academy in judo and jiu jistu.)
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