For many athletes, the respect of one’s peers is very important.
There’s an insider’s mentality that fans would never understand, a kinship that grows through shared experiences.
To be fair, this is not limited to athletics. People who grew up in the same generation have a similar bond. Those who were college students in the 60s connect over tales of a visit to Woodstock and the drug-fueled events that occurred or the Vietnam War protests that galvanized a generation of youth.
It is only natural that fighters would develop this same unspoken kinship. There’s a small fraternity of individuals who are willing to be punched in the face to make a living. It makes fighters less likely to criticize other fighters because they understand the preparation and mindset it takes to step into the ring.
You have to have a few screws loose to step into the Octagon; that much is apparent.
So when a fighter criticizes his peer, I listen.
When fans and journalists crushed Jon Jones for turning down a bout with Chael Sonnen on eight days notice, I waited to form my opinion. Preparation is important. And Jones had a lot to lose by taking that fight on such short notice. His undefeated record and light heavyweight belt are his meal ticket. Collectively, they are why Jones has a deal with Nike.
Though his actions led to the cancellation of the card, there is plenty of blame to go around.
Dana White and Zuffa should accept some for putting together a one-fight card. His expletive laced rant heaping all of the blame upon Jones was unprofessional and skewed public opinion.
Dan Henderson, Jones’ original opponent, should have pulled out of the fight earlier. Henderson put the card in jeopardy by continuing to prolong the inevitable. Henderson knew he was too injured to fight. He has to be smarter and better weigh the magnitude of his actions.
That doesn’t absolve Jones of his responsibility though.
When other fighters – guys who literally put their life on the line when they step into the cage- denigrate your mentality, I listen.
Those are your brothers in your profession. MMA fighters literally shed blood together.
It is a tough business. To survive, you must have a fighter’s mentality. You have to love stepping into the Octagon.
If you don’t, you will not last.
Michael Bisping was the one of the first to vocally disagree with Jones’ decision.
“Listen. When you’re the champion, when you’re the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion of the world, you gotta take fights. It’s hard for me to judge Jon Jones.
He’s a hell of a fighter, and he’ll go down in history as the youngest champion ever. He’s incredible, but, I’ve got to say, I was a little disappointed when he didn’t take the fight. He was offered a fight against Chael Sonnen on eight days notice. I, personally, was offered a fight against Chael Sonnen on eight days notice. I chose to take that fight. I don’t know what that means. I don’t know what those facts say.
Maybe it means I’m a bada**. I took the fight.
I’m just confused as to why Jon Jones didn’t. I think it’s a fight Jones would have won. Obviously, he would have been in better shape than Chael. He’s been preparing for that night, so it’s a little confusing.”
Anderson Silva, the UFC’s middleweight champion, offered to save UFC 151 for compassionate reasons.
“When I heard it, I called Dana (White) and said I’d fight on the light heavyweight division although I wasn’t trained.
Besides the big fight there are other fighters relying on that. I worried about the because I’ve been through that in smaller events.”
Jones is not a villain in my eyes. The light heavyweight champion is not a female dog. He’s still a great champion and a UFC Hall of Famer.
What he is not, is the fighter who fights for fighting sake.
He loves the things that an undefeated record brings. The money. The fame. The endorsements and the chance to be a global star. All of those things are great for the sport and grow it at an exponential level.
Jon Jones is a star. I’ll continue to watch his fights. They are entertaining.
I just wish he took the same approach to the sport that Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, B.J. Penn and Donald Cerrone did and still do today.
I guess that is nostalgia for the old days and old battles and old fighters. Jones is not those guys.
I guess I can accept that.