IT’S NOT HIS FAULT BUT WE NEED TO HEAR FROM MR. JONES

IT’S NOT HIS FAULT BUT WE NEED TO HEAR FROM MR. JONES

–Kenny Rice

In recent days MMA, to the chagrin of many followers, has proven to be just like boxing. There are only so many guaranteed PPV draws in each sport, the combative entertainment market is no exception.

If there was doubt prior, that ended with the cancellation of UFC 151, an admission from the ultimate leader in the sport that they didn’t have a card worthy of asking for those 50-plus dollars to watch it in the comfort of your home.

It was the excuse though that still shows this sport needs to stop the rhetoric, the pandering to the lowest common denominator of those who will never fully embrace and refuse to realize the rest of the sports world spinning around them. Sometimes things don’t work out. Sometimes the bite is more than they can chew. And most often lately there are too many of these events with too few bona fide matches. It’s attrition – as with any other sport the pool is only so deep. It’s not a disgrace, it’s a fact. Last year UFC 133 was in limbo until veteran Tito Ortiz stepped in to give it that audience appeal needed to fill seats and click the accept button on the TV remote to watch.

MMA, unlike any other sport, is filled with very strong men who are extremely sensitive. Not that anyone relishes criticism, but few feel the urge to retort with a tweet or another social media outlet as strongly as fighters and those who promote them. That’s a large part of the issue. There are many fighters available, but only a few that are worthy of asking the public to drop their money to watch.  A handful that will be automatic draws. The majority of cards on offer feature solid fighters who deliver, but at this time (as 151 showed) there is also a need to cut back. With big events monthly and TV obligations for other shows, what could anyone expect? It doesn’t show weakness – it shows practicality. Supply is behind demand, or maybe demand is just that: fans are becoming less lemming-like, headed toward that cliff of “must watch or else”.

Jon Jones isn’t the reason the whole card was canceled. If he is, then it shows MMA has regressed. But one man can change things. As with boxing’s biggest stages, the star is the star and everyone else on the under cards is there to lead up to him. However, shows can (and do) go on when there is a collection of talent that intrigues enough, that promises competitiveness enough, and has recognition enough from past bouts. So enough with the “Jones blew up the whole thing”. There weren’t enough of the other ingredients for this particular show, else it would have gone on as planned.

Jones does have an obligation though. He is a star – some could argue THE star – of the sport. He is young, charismatic and talented to the point where his ceiling can’t be seen. Anderson Silva has the language barrier, Georges St. Pierre is still on the sideline with injury; Jones is the American dream athlete from an amazingly athletic family, who can sit on the couch across from Jay Leno and hold his own. He is the crossover the sport needs more than ever with the retirements in recent months of Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz. Jones has signed a deal with iconic Nike, a breakout move for him and MMA.

With all this there comes responsibility to those who got him there, the fans. It is more than the weak, basic, and ambiguous tweet of apology he sent out this week. It needs to be an explanation as to why a man who has never wavered in beating a string of past UFC champions on his way to winning and then defending his light heavyweight crown didn’t want to take a fight against an opponent who has never won a significant title anywhere. It is puzzling Jones wouldn’t consider this a slam dunk.

Maybe he wanted to say something along the lines “I feel I deserve a better fight. I am the champ, after all, and with that should come some respect as to who is a legitimate contender for my title. That I wasn’t consulted and instead just told – based on trying to hold an otherwise disappointing card – who I would fight was insulting. It is not in my or the UFC’s best interest to just have match ups for the sake of trying to satisfy a pay-per-view sell. If I had the opportunity to discuss this further and find a legitimate fight with someone established in my weight class, it would have been a different scenario than the one I was presented with no chance or offer to negotiate.”

He’s got sharp marketing people around him, they could’ve come up with something better – but they should come up with something before more time passes and speculation increases beyond the already deservingly question of ‘Why Jon, why?’

This isn’t about calling him out, about asking him to man up. Jones doesn’t have to prove himself to anyone except Vitor Belfort at UFC 152. But it is a sword he carries that cuts both ways. He gets an abundance of adulation from fans and media, that didn’t hurt in opening the Nike door as much as his accomplishments. He has shown a flaw with his drunk driving incident this year but wasn’t hounded about it, there was not need. He did then issue his mea culpa and what else is there to say about it? He screwed up, stars do, and he’s paying for it as he should and stars have to do. No one was hurt, except a little pride and a telephone post. Life and Jones moved on as it should be.

When one is so famous though, and has used the media so well during the ascension to the throne he occupies, it would be at least considerate to just offer something more substantial than he has chosen to do, or been advised to do. This isn’t about a dent in a Bentley, it’s about being the focus of some dubious history, the first canceled UFC event. And while not fair, the people blaming him solely are the ones at least offering a side. Jones is a tough man – again, this isn’t in debate. If he weren’t as smart and articulate as he is then is lack of full disclosure would be understandable.

Jones is a special talent. He is more than just another champ in the UFC. He needs to address that with a simple but revealing address to his fans.

Do you agree or disagree with Jon Jones’ decision, or do you find yourself somewhere in between?  Tell us what you think on facebook or twitter, or tell the man himself on Kenny’s twitter or facebook page

Watch Kenny Rice along with Bas Rutten LIVE every Monday night on Inside MMA, and check out Kenny’s new book “Not Hit Yet” an insider look at the MMA world in 2012, available at Amazon now

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