Jones' problems mount after White's rant

August, 23, 2012
8/23/12
4:09
PM ET
Dundas By Chad Dundas
ESPN.com
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From the deafening silence that descended over MMA's favorite social media platforms Thursday morning, you could tell something big was about to happen.

You just didn't know it would be quite this weird.

Even as the UFC hastily (and cryptically) organized an afternoon conference call for "a special announcement" about next weekend's UFC 151, news of Dan Henderson's knee injury had been all but confirmed. Befitting the breakneck pace of the sport's news cycle, most of the speculation had already moved on to whom the company would find to replace Henderson in his light heavyweight title fight against Jon Jones.
[+] EnlargeJon Jones
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesJon Jones might have thrown away a perfectly good opportunity to silence Chael Sonnen.

Those in the know fully expected it to be Chael Sonnen and, in that, expected some typically mundane prefight fireworks.

We didn't expect this.

We didn't expect that for the first time in his tenure as UFC president, Dana White would cancel a high-profile pay-per-view event, pulling the plug on UFC 151 just nine days before it was scheduled to go down at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. We didn't expect he would also take a verbal flamethrower to the public image of one of his superstars.

White has always been one to wear his emotions on his sleeve, but after Jones reportedly refused a short-notice fight against Sonnen that would have saved UFC 151, the vitriol he unleashed on his 205-pound champion was unprecedented -- at least for an employee. White lambasted Jones and his coaches during the 45-minute call, saying he "didn't know what to expect anymore" from the No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world and labeling Jones' mentor Greg Jackson as a sport killer.

It was awkward, it was ugly, and if you thought Jones was unpopular before, you ain't seen nothing yet.

"This is probably one of my all-time lows as being president of the UFC," White said in one of the tamer, more family-friendly moments. "I don't know why a guy who is a world champion and considered by many one of the pound-for-pound best wouldn't fight somebody. I don't know the answer to that. It's baffling to me. I've never seen it before."

Even by the standards of the unpredictable MMA world and White's acerbic, off-the-cuff nature, this performance may go down as one of the most bizarre happenings in the sport's history. Never before have we seen him this mad at a guy who had previously figured to be one of the UFC's biggest assets in its continued push toward mainstream acceptance.

When asked how much the events of the past 24 hours would affect the UFC's relationship with Jones, White responded, "A lot."

"Jon Jones has been one of these guys who, as much as he's won and all the things he's accomplished in a short amount of time … he's been a champion that hasn't been very popular," White said. "I don't think this is going to do wonders for his popularity. As far as the relationship with us? Me and [UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta] are both disgusted."

Even before today, Jones has been a divisive figure in MMA circles. He breezed through the best competition in the light heavyweight division but has had considerable trouble connecting with the sport's hard-core fan base. It may be the understatement of the year to say this latest turn of events will not help that.

By drawing the ire of the most powerful man in the sport -- rightly or wrongly -- the public relations battle figures to get even more difficult for Jones.

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