Jon Jones, a fighter who should be celebrated for his athletic brilliance, lauded for his groundbreaking style and beloved for his charismatic ways, is probably now the most despised man in mixed martial arts.
Fighters have stepped up to take last-minute bouts on short notice for years. In 2003, a 38-year-old Lennox Lewis accepted a much more difficult bout, against Vitali Klitschko, when original opponent Kirk Johnson pulled out about 10 days before their match.
Michael Bisping did it for the UFC in January, when on eight days notice he accepted a fight against Sonnen, a high-level wrestler, when he had been preparing for submission expert Demain Maia.
For all the vitriol being directed Jones' way, he has the right to do what he feels is best for his career. Jones, though, looked at it from a strategic standpoint and not simply a fighting standpoint.
His relationship with White and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta has been irreparably damaged. It's always best to have the bosses on your side and owing you a favor rather than the other way around.
White repeatedly referred to Jones as being rich during the conference call. It was a subtle way of reminding Jones that he made his fortune via his success in the UFC and that he should be willing to do a favor for management when asked.
As Jones has gotten more successful in the cage – his 2011 campaign might be the best in the sport's history – his popularity has waned among fans and media. His publicist quit last week, frustrated by Jones' prickly style and inability to deal well with the media.
By choosing not to take the bout, he made an enemy of the sport's most powerful man. That won't do much for one's long-term prospects, Nike sponsorship or not.
The only thing for sure these days is that Jones is no longer a popular man among his bosses or the sport's growing fan base.
The shrewdest prediction for UFC 152 is to expect boos – lots and lots of boos – whenever Jones comes into public view at the Air Canada Centre. It's something he'd better get used to.