UFC 151: Never happened, never forgotten

source: The Underground Blog

UG Columnist Ralph Welch reflects on the craziest 24 hours in UFC history.

UFC 151: The event that never happened, but will never be forgotten

As the UFC has continued its rapid rise from niche to mainstream, it has given us many memorable moments.

But surely nothing has matched the seismic drama of yesterday’s turn of events.

It was a day that shook the fortress UFC to its very foundations, a day when the balance of power shifted and the King found himself threatened by a new pretender to the throne.

Who would ever have thought 24 hours ago that the Crown Prince of the Zuffa brand would find himself banished from the King’s court? Could we have ever imagined that Jon “Bones” Jones, the UFC’s most bankable future asset, the man who had just signed the most important merchandising deal in MMA history, and the man who seemed destined to lead MMA into a bold new future, would become the most hated man in the sport?

It had all started so inauspiciously. A ripple of noise about a potential injury to Dan Henderson soon turned into a veritable explosion of excitement as fans, pundits and fighters sought the truth. Social media was invented for scandals like this. With every new secret source and every new unconfirmed report, the tempo rose and the pulse quickened.

Whilst the Twitter orchestra reached a pulsating crescendo, the silence from the UFC powerbrokers was deafening.

But not for long.

Since he first stepped into the limelight, Dana White’s voice has given us some extraordinary soundbites. Yet surely none as raw and visceral as the words he spewed with such venom yesterday afternoon. With each passing syllable of a conference call that will live long in the collective memory, White’s rage grew more uncontrollable. 

Frustration finally gave way to fury. This was no time for niceties or introspection. UFC 151 was being canned and the UFC President needed a scapegoat. As it happened he found two of them: Jon Jones and his mentor, famed coach Greg Jackson, who together decided not to accept a late-notice fight against replacement Chael Sonnen.

The most phenomenal young talent in light-heavyweight history and arguably the most successful tactician the sport has ever seen were afforded little respect as White made it clear that the blame for this calamity lay squarely on their shoulders.

“This is one of my all-time lows as president. For the first time ever, we’re gonna cancel an event. I don’t know why a guy who is a world champion and considered by many the pound for pound best wouldn’t fight anybody. It’s baffling to me. I’ll go on the record saying Greg Jackson is a f---ing sport-killer.”

Millions of eyeballs were glued to Twitter as live updates of an unforgettable 34 minutes were shared with the world at large. The beauty of social media is the instant accessibility of information. Those not privy to the call were being updated within seconds. And in those precious seconds, opinions were formed, allegiances were broken and Jon Jones became Public Enemy Number One.

UFC 151: the inquest

A full 24 hours after the death of UFC 151 and tensions still remain high. At the time of writing, Jon Jones will now defend his title against Vitor Belfort at UFC 152 after Lyoto Machida matched the champion’s caution and decided to forego his title shot – a decision that may yet have ramifications for his own future.

Meanwhile, thousands of column inches have attempted to dissect the drama. Some have supported Jones, opting instead to challenge the Zuffa business model of an ever-expanding calendar of events, resulting in paper-thin cards reliant on a single star name to keep them afloat. It’s a persuasive argument. Certainly the roster seems more stretched than it has ever been before and murmurs of discontent have grown increasingly audible amongst the paying audiences. Joe Silva, the UFC matchmaker whose contribution has been crucial to the UFC’s success, may have some work to do.
So too will the lawyers. Being held to ransom by their star man is not a situation that the Zuffa chain of command will want to endure again. In some ways, it is an inevitable consequence of a product that edges closer to mainstream acceptance. The moment the ink dried on his deal with Nike, Jon Jones became less dependent on his paymasters for his personal finance.  It gave him more freedom and control which he exercised to such devastating effect. Inevitable or not, there may yet be some contractual efforts from Zuffa to limit their risk in future.

Jones, meanwhile, will have woken this morning to find that the passing of time has not healed the gaping wounds in his popularity. Ultimately fans, fighters and other support industries dependent on UFC dollars have found themselves severely out of pocket. His comments earlier this week about maximising his own worth could – with the benefit of hindsight - not have been more poorly timed.
Timing. It’s what made yesterday so dramatic. With each new tweet the story twisted and turned.
One of the privileges of watching a young, dynamic sport mature before our eyes is that we bear witness to historic moments. And perhaps - in some bizarre way - we should cherish them.

As the years pass and MMA continues its exponential growth, there will be changes to its governance and infrastructure.  The eruptions which made yesterday so memorable may in future  find themselves confined to the secrecy of the boardroom.

We may never again see a day full of such public drama and intrigue. Just as people will enquire about the night Brock Lesnar won the title or Anderson Silva submitted Chael Sonnen, one day we may all be asked our whereabouts on the day Jon Jones turned bad guy.

Where were we? On Twitter of course.

Follow Underground Columnist Ralph Welch on Twitter.

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Recent Comments »

Stevia Viper site profile image  

8/25/12 1:06 PM by Stevia Viper


Dirty_Boxer site profile image  

8/25/12 12:41 PM by Dirty_Boxer

I love these long story-teller style articles :)It really is true about twitter too. I went from deciding to get a twitter to follow a few athletes to constantly refreshing the app at work and right up til I went to sleep to see what new mma news it would bring. All within a surprisingly short time. I lay the credit/blame to UFC naturally rather than twitter ^_^

Fabefromfort site profile image  

8/24/12 3:15 PM by Fabefromfort

There's no way I was going to watch Jones beat on Sonnen. I'm glad he turned that fight down ! Not for his reasons, but, for the fact Jones would slaughter Sonnen. I'm still pissed because I think Sonnen bailed in the Silva fight. Here, here's my chest, and head, send a knee into me ! The typical MMA fan has no knowledge of the fight game, and if they wanted Sonnen, that is living proff in itself that you're stupid as far as fights go. Where was I ? On my computer, and laughed the whole day away. Why ? Started with Silva. First not fighting Machida, and vice versa when that fight became huge. Then the same with Jones-Silva. Now Weidman-Silva. He sez he'll fight St. Pierre only at his weight. Now wants to drop all the way to welter ? What changed ? Why the change of heart ? Got tired of gargantuan fights not getting made after years of building up to them, and waiting for supreme combatants to square off, and them ducking each other. The UFC gets what it deserved. I roared yesterday at my desk. Just relished the whole day. No pity on the UFC and any fighters who pick and choose. I blame most of Yesterday on Anderson Silva. If the normal course of events happen, yesterday doesn't happen. In fact Sept. 1 could well have been Jones-Silva, or Weidman-Silva. Out of all those guys, Silva, Jones, Weidman, Hendo, Hendo is most likely to get hurt. He always gets hurt, his style is made for injuries. That leaves the other 3. Silva won't fight. Weidman offered. You won't make that fight ? Then your done. Suck on that for awhile UFC. Shame on you for throwing that Tomato Can to a heavier division after he just got pole-axed by a smaller version of Jonny Jones. And shame on you for asking Rua whose just been through 2 of the greatest wars in UFC history, back to back. You deserve everything you get, and , you'll never be mainstream.Sorry.

Halifax site profile image  

8/24/12 3:00 PM by Halifax

^ well done sir.

SKARHEAD site profile image  

8/24/12 2:08 PM by SKARHEAD

Yeah, but they still would have charged $60 for it- lol

slugshot331 site profile image  

8/24/12 1:16 PM by slugshot331

 It should've been expected from JBJ, afterall here is his duckface

whytlion site profile image  

8/24/12 1:15 PM by whytlion

I doubt the UFC will ever forget.It cost them money! I do think they will come up with a better Plan B. One option would be to offer,a couple of up and coming or rising established, fighters(Weidman, Blecher MW, Davis, Teixeira LHW ect...) show money to be in shape and ready to go. A reasonable number, in UFC terms, of $100,000 an event should cover 3 or 4 guys as subs for your Main and Co-Main. That sounds like a decent insurance premium against this never happening again.

fightsfan site profile image  

8/24/12 12:43 PM by fightsfan

Souldn't they reshuffle all the rest of the UFC events numbers so they can blame that on JOnes and Jackson.

UGCTT_rkilla site profile image  

8/24/12 12:43 PM by UGCTT_rkilla

The Keyser Soze Card Did it ever exist at all?