UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has faced a bevy of criticism, some fair and some unfair, for his role in the maelstrom that led to the cancellation of UFC 151. UFC President Dana White and former middleweight contender Chael Sonnen have been going out of their way to criticize the light heavyweight kingpin on conference calls and on ESPN. Jones and his camp have been largely quiet since being told they “murdered” UFC 151 but have recently opened up to MMAJunkie regarding the issue.
“Dan Henderson got hurt, and the fight was canceled,” Jones told MMAJunkie, “I signed a contract a long time ago to fight Dan Henderson. That’s what I studied for, and that’s what I prepared myself for. To take a fight with a different opponent in which I would basically have three days of training before traveling and then starting to cut weight I just thought would be the dumbest idea ever. I wouldn’t have been properly prepared.”
On the fight card’s cancelation:
“I definitely apologize to the other fighters on the card,” Jones said. “I feel terrible, but it also wasn’t my decision to cancel the whole card. I don’t make those decisions.”
Jones went on to further delve into how his usual fight preparation was affected, especially with his coaching staff being out of the country during fight week – Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljon, and others will be in Manila for teammate Andrei Arlovski’s ONE FC fight with Tim Sylvia. Said Jones:
“I take a lot of pride in the way I perform, and I want to put on the best performance possible every time I fight. I don’t want to go out there just to win the fight. I want to go out there to dominate. I want to make it look effortless. I want it to be a beautiful thing. Chael is completely different fighter. This is war. This is strategy. You have to go in there prepared and know that you did your homework. I wouldn’t be the same warrior if I just jumped in there blindly and was cutting weight while I was trying to prepare for the fight. Greg Jackson wasn’t going to show up until Friday. Coach (Mike) Winkeljohn wasn’t going to be there until Wednesday or Thursday. I would have been pretty much on my own trying to prepare for a new opponent. That’s just not the best way to prepare.”
On the criticism he has received for his decision:
“If this was my first fight in the UFC and I really didn’t have a choice and they needed somebody to step in last-minute, if it was that type of scenario, then I’d probably more open to it, but I’m a UFC champion, and I need to perform that way. If I would have taken this fight, that would have been letting my ego get in the way and not using my intellect. This is war, and you have to go in there prepared. The criticism does bother me, but I have to stand by my decision. I have to be the man that I am. With such large audiences comes great criticism. There will be a lot of scrutiny, but I’ve got to do what makes me happy and feels right to me. At the end of the day, I have to make the best choice for me and my family.”
Jones then turned his attention towards his new card, UFC 152, and new opponent Lyoto Machida (who was asked to replace Henderson before Sonnen):
“I just hiked about eight miles today. I’m moving forward. I’m continuing to work, and I’m working on transforming my body from great shape to phenomenal shape. My goal now is to beat Lyoto better than I did the first time. I want to be a better version of myself, and I’m looking forward to it. This is a professional sport. It’s not just a backyard fight. You put everything on the line every time you step into the cage, and I now have a new mission. I’m all-in now, and I won’t give anything less than my full effort.”
The champ also wanted to apologize to the fans affected by the change and state that he would have no problem fighting Sonnen at a future event:
“I apologize to the people that lost money on tickets and travel and things like that,” Jones said. “I don’t apologize for my decision, but I do apologize for the way it affected people. I hope people can understand I was just trying to do the best thing for my career. Dan Henderson got hurt, and our fight was canceled. As difficult as it is to deal with everything that’s happened, I just didn’t feel like I had enough time to prepare both physically and mentally for a fight with a new opponent. I just didn’t feel I had enough to prepare properly and perform at my best. Whether Chael Sonnen actually deserves a title shot really isn’t my place to say. But if he wants to fight on Sept. 22, then I’m fine with that.”
Jones is now set to face Lyoto Machida on September 22 in Toronto, Ontario. While there were concerns over whether he could travel to Canada with his DWI arrest earlier this year, UFC President Dana White said he expects no issues with travel earlier today.