It seems no matter what he does, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is the target of anger by MMA fans. He may be making decisions that are in the best interests of his career but he is losing fans & has drawn the ire of some of this fellow fighters as well. With all of the negative instances over his career perhaps Jones should embrace the hate he receives & not worry about trying to “get some fans.”
The recent decision by Jones & his trainer Greg Jackson to turn down a fight with Chael Sonnen at the now canceled UFC 151 was the hot topic of the week. Fans who want to see the champion fight & not lose an entire card were irate with the decision that ultimately led to UFC President Dana White calling off the card.
When Dan Henderson went out with a knee injury the UFC tried to slot in Lyoto Machida to save the main event. Machida did not take the spot so another opponent was searched for. Former middleweight contender Chael Sonnen was more than ready to take the fight on 8 days notice. Jon Jones felt it was the wrong move for his career to fight Sonnen & would not accept the fight.
During a conference call Dana White went on a tirade bad mouthing both Jones & Greg Jackson. He did a very good public relations job deflecting any blame & placing it all on the champion & his camp. The heat from the fans was instant & tremendous.
Other fighters who were on the UFC 151 card were now out of a paycheck. The UFC is trying to find homes for their fights later in the year. While the process is underway there are many fighters who do not make a large amount of money each fight & have to wait to be paid now. Charlie Brenneman was obviously upset when the card was cancelled & let Jones know about it on Twitter.
“Jonny Bones, can you send my check to P.O. Box 198. EH NJ. Rent is due the first, so preferably by then. Thanks.”
While the cancellation of the card is in no way all Jones’ fault he became a lightning rod from a fellow fighter. It is one thing to be a target of fans but when your co-workers turn on you it can not be a comfortable situation.
Other fighters have come out publicly not necessarily saying they didn’t agree with Jones but if they were in that situation they would have taken the fight. Those type of statements are fodder for fans to use in their argument against Jones’ decision.
The anger the fans exude toward Jones is becoming all too common. Earlier this year on May 19th, Jon Jones crashed his Bentley into a utility pole & was subsequently charged with DWI. Fighter, celebrity or regular person this is a ridiculous thing to be doing & he deserved every bit of negativity toward him. A life threatening act such as this is inexcusable.
An official release was done by his team to apologize for the act but then the P.R. nightmare continued when he took to his own Facebook page to complain about people kicking him when was down. Jones tried to paint himself as the victim in a case that was clearly all his fault. No doubt he was feeling awful & didn’t like some of the negative energy being sent his way but his management team needed to keep him quiet & not let him try to make himself look better in the eye if the public. It only made him look worse.
One of the most famous gaffes from Jones & his team was at UFC 140 in Toronto when he defeated Lyoto Machida. Once an unconscious Machida was dropped to the mat by Jones, he celebrated his victory as anyone would do. While Machida was being checked on by doctors, Greg Jackson emphatically yelled to get Jones’ attention. The famous words were then spoken. “Jon. Go check on him. Go check on him. Go check on Lyoto. Get some fans.”
Fans were shocked when they heard this statement. Damage control was attempted after the fight but it was too late. Once again the fans turned on the champion.
Jones first began to turn some fans off when his verbal sparring against Rashad Evans & Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson occurred. The cocky attitude he portrayed did not sit well with many. Many fighters are cocky & have an attitude but for whatever reason Jones’ attitude just rubbed people the wrong way. At that early moment in his rise to the top his team needed to quell the image & groom him properly to be the next superstar of the sport.
Right or wrong the fans are still the ones who pay their money to watch the fighters. Jones may be one of the most talented fighters to ever step into the octagon but he is losing fans with every action he does.
One has to wonder what Nike will do if Jones can not turn around his image. Ariel Helwani reported that the deal is only for one year. If the rest of 2012 & early 2013 keep going the same way it is right now that deal very well may not be extended.
Perhaps Jones should just embrace the hate & not worry about having a polished image. Fighters such as Tito Ortiz & Chael Sonnen have done very well for themselves financially by playing the heel character.
We do not know Jon Jones behind the scenes in his everyday life. Perhaps every single negative thing he has done is simply a misunderstanding or an accident. That seems unlikely since it keeps happening. If Jones is truly a cocky person who really doesn’t care what anyone thinks then it is time to step out of the attempted finely groomed image his team wants him to have & be himself.
Acting like you are the best & telling everyone about it will create more heat in his direction but at least the shock when he does something wrong won’t be there. Fans will expect him to do something they don’t like & cheer against him happily. The UFC is a business still. Fans will pay good money to see their favourite villain lose in a main event of a pay-per-view.
It does reek of WWE but it is a proven business model. Jones should not try & force an image on the fans if it isn’t truly who he is since there is no disputing the pure talent he has. Based on that alone Jones is going to make a lot of money & be very successful in the UFC. By turning down fights, coming across in a very conceited way, being charged with DWI & opening his mouth when he shouldn’t he is looked at as a villain. There is nothing wrong with that but don’t act like you are not.
Jones very well may walk through Vitor Belfort in Toronto on September 22. Belfort is now moving up a weight class & is taking this fight on a month’s notice. Everything points to a Jones victory yet many fans are going to be cheering for Belfort. This would be a great opportunity for Jones to start the hype & let fans know how good he is & how easily he will win. Fans won’t like it but everything else he does the same result seems to happen. Embrace the hate Jon & don’t worry about what the fans think. It may just be the easier road.
Written by Mike McPhee
Follow me on Twitter @ManCaveMMA