The entire Ultimate Fighting Championship just got turned on it’s head. Next weekend’s entire UFC 151 event in Las Vegas has been cancelled and UFC President Dana White is extremely unhappy with his light heavyweight champion.
On a specially called teleconference with the media Thursday, White confirmed last night’s rumor that Dan Henderson was injured. But it got worse. Much worse. “This is probably one of my all time lows as being President of the UFC over the last 11 years,” White said. “For the first time in 11 years we are going to cancel an event. … 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 doctors and there was nothing we could do to save that fight.”
There was someone who stepped up to replace Dan Henderson and wanted to fight Jon Jones though. “For somebody to fight Jon Jones on eight days notice is tough to do,” said White. “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.’ But, ‘I’ll fly to Las Vegas tonight and fight him.’ And that was Chael Sonnen. Chael Sonnen accepted the fight with Jon Jones, wanted the fight bad, so as of 8 or 9 o’clock last night we had a fight.”
But it takes two to fight, right? However, despite their recent much publicized beef, Jones refused the bout. White explained, “The one thing I thought in a million years would never happen, happened. Jon Jones said, ‘I’m not fighting Chael Sonnen with eight days notice.’ Again, something that has never happened in UFC history, a guy who is a world champion and considered one of the pound-for-pound best turns down a fight. So, that has never happened either.”
White went on to announce that the entire UFC 151 card scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 1, in Las Vegas was cancelled and Jones would now be fighting Lyoto Machida (who was scheduled to fight the winner of Jones vs. Hendo anyway) in the UFC 152 main event on Sept. 22 in Toronto, Canada. As far as the 20 other people scheduled to fight at UFC 151, well, they are out of a payday. White said they would figure it all out.
The original main event for UFC 152 was Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson for the inaugural UFC flyweight title. That fight will now be the co-main event, and it just so happens, Mr. Benavidez will join us on Pro MMA Now Radio this evening and we will get his thoughts on the change from main to co-main event.
White indicated Jones refused the bout with Sonnen at the advice of his coach Greg Jackson. White said, “When he [Jones] and I talked, he said I got to sit down and talk with my coaches. His coach Greg Jackson says, ‘There’s no way you take this fight. You don’t take this fight on eight days notice. It would be the biggest mistake of your entire career.’ Wow! Chael Sonnen is 185-pounder who wants to move up to 205, who hasn’t trained a day for this fight and the fight is in eight days, yet he says he’ll fly here tonight to fight the supposed pound-for-pound third best fighter in the world, the world champion… How much faith do you have in your champion, in your guy. … I’ll go on the record [about Greg Jackson] this guy is a [expletive] sport killer. Okay. This guy is from another planet. I’ve never even seen anything like it in my life.”
The ramifications and fallout from this cancelled event will be far-reaching. White said because this has never happened, it is hard to say just how devastating the effects will be. One can assume millions of dollars have been spent on advertising and promotion for an event that will not happen. According to the UFC Twitter account (@UFC) UFC 152 will remain being called UFC 152, and it seems UFC 151 will go down in history as the “lost event”.
These types of things have literally killed promotions in the past. Many will recall the Affliction-Barnett fiasco. The UFC should survive, but it is going to hurt. And as far as Jon Jones’ future in the promotion? That remains to be seen.
UPDATE (5:23 a.m. CT): Lyoto Machida has reneged and will not be fighting Jon Jones after all. Instead, Vitor Belfort has stepped up to face the Champion. Full details here: Lyoto Machida out; Now Jon Jones will fight Vitor Belfort on Sept. 22.
If you are just now hearing about this, you can read how everything unfolded here, and listen to the audio of the conference call with Dana White below.