With the historic announcement of UFC 151’s cancellation – the first in UFC history –plenty of blame was passed around. UFC President Dana White viciously attacked Jon Jones and his trainer, Greg Jackson, for not accepting a bout against middleweight contender Chael Sonnen on eight days’ notice.
As became apparent through social media, much of the mixed martial arts community sided with White. Many fighters took to Twitter to claim their displeasure with the event’s cancellation, and subsequently, Jones. Fans continued the onslaught, bashing the champion with angry Tweet follow by angry Tweet. People were livid.
Whether or not the blame over UFC 151 being cancelled was well placed or not is certainly up for debate. What cannot be debated is the professionalism Jones handled a situation which could have easily got out of hand. Like a champion, Jones did not respond to angry fans and took responsibility for cancellation.
But was Jones right to take the brunt of the blame for the unraveling of UFC 151? Yes, Jones acted like a professional but did acting the hero serve his best interests.
Fans of mixed martial arts have quickly turned on the light-heavyweight champion. Despite arguably being the best fighter in the world, fans continue to root against the young champion. Is it time for Jones to embrace the hate?
He certainly would not be the first champion to do so, and is unlikely to be the last. Perhaps comparing Jones with a young Muhammad Ali is slightly premature, but there’s no denying the similarities.
Few enjoyed Ali’s bravado, attitude, and over-bearing shtick until later into his career. The more fans grew discontent with Louisville Lip, the louder he roared.
Despite being one of the most disliked athletes of his time, Ali’s legacy has changed since his time in the ring. Since then, Ali has become one of, if not, the most beloved athlete in history. On par with his dazzling footwork, stunning hand speed, and undying ability to persevere was a complete faith in himself.
Without saying it, Jones has made it clear there is no lack of confidence in his abilities. He slyly knows he made the right decision in not taking the Chael Sonnen bout, but seems afraid to disappoint fans and UFC management.
Jon Jones needs to fight for Jon Jones. Standing up for himself will not get him fired or stripped of the world championship. And if anything, fans will garner more respect for him if he stands up for himself.
Jon Jones, it is time to embrace the hate.