Full Contact Fighter’s “The Daily Takedown:” How Will UFC Recover From Jon Jones Disaster? How Chael Sonnen Again Used Pro Wrestling To Boost His Stock
By Joshua Molina
If it feels like the wheels are falling off the bus that is the UFC, that’s because they are.
It will be up to Dana White and the Fertitta brothers to fix the Jon Jones debacle before it does further harm to the sport. White has done a tremendous job growing the sport and, when the product became hot, the money began pouring in and the mainstream sports world started watching.
We don’t know yet how White will be able to pull his company out of adversity. We do know this: Going on a tirade vilifying your champion who just signed a Nike contract probably isn’t going to help much. It makes the company and its leadership look Mickey Mouse-like – not exactly the image the UFC, or any other professional sports organization, wants.
News broke late Thursday night that Lyoto Machida wouldn’t be fighting Jones on Sept. 22. Machida wanted more time for the fight, which begs the question: Why did White tell the media on a conference call that Machida would step in and fight Jones if Machida hadn’t agreed to do so?
Instead Jones will fight Vitor Belfort, in a fight that makes little sense. Here’s what we do know. When Belfort walks into the cage in Canada he’s going to have a Hulk Hogan-like hysteria behind him, all wanting Belfort to pull off an upset. Jones, who was already losing popularity since his DUI arrest a few months ago, is now one of the sport’s most hated fighters since refusing to fight Chael Sonnen.
Sonnen, meanwhile, has seriously raised his stock during this whole debacle. It’s only fitting that Sonnen, a huge pro wrestling fan, has essentially used pro wrestling gimmicks and behavior to become a big star again – just a month after losing to Anderson Silva.
The Jones-Henderson situation happens quite frequently in the world of pro wrestling. Wrestlers get injured all the time. Promoters have to shuffle guys around to save cards. While it’s different in MMA because MMA is a sport and pro wrestling is entertainment, Jones and Dana White could learn a lot from how pro wrestlers and Sonnen have handled the situation.
In pro wrestling, winners and losers don’t really matter anymore because fans pay to see entertaining performers. After a major pro wrestling feud is over, the promoters shuffle guys into the next matchups based on storylines and how well the pro wrestlers interact with each other. So if John Cena lost to The Rock and WrestleMania, no one really cares, because they want to see Cena wrestle CM Punk on the next show because those two guys have on-camera chemistry together.
The same is true with Sonnen. No one really cares that he lost to Silva. The idea that he would be man enough to step up and fight Jon Jones on eight days notice is the stuff of lore, and trumps the fact that he lost. Who wouldn’t root for that guy? Sonnen proves that he is a fearless badass willing to fight at any given moment. That’s how stars are born.
“The Ultimate “ character was born when he stepped in to fight The Honkytonk Man years ago at “SummerSlam” replacing an injured wrestler; The Hulk Hogan character exploded when he replaced Bob Backlund to fight the Iron Sheik in 1984. Sonnen knows that winning unexpectedly is worth gold. The fact that Jones turned the fight down is even better.
Sonnen is already walking around telling people that he’s the Light Heavyweight Champion because the champ “forfeited” against him.
Sure, Jones has more to lose than Sonnen. Jones could lose his title, more money and stature in the MMA world. But seriously, look at what he has lost by not fighting. Sonnen and Dan Henderson may be undergoing testosterone replacement therapy, but many of Jones’ MMA peers and his fans are wondering whether Jones has any balls.
When you are a fighter, what’s worse?
Thursday’s Jon Jones disaster is a good reminder why MMA fans shouldn’t pedestal the UFC as the be-all, end-all of the sport. Bellator Fighting Championships returns tonight with Bellator 73. Travis Wiuff will battle Attila Vegh in the main event of show, which will be broadcast on MTV 2 tonight at 5 p.m. EST. Bellator recently signed MMA stars Paul Daley and Babalu Sobral and, with a new contract with Spike TV, the promotion could be in a position to make a big move in 2013.
Contact reporter Joshua Molina at email@example.com. Or follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JoshuaMolinaMMA