No regrets, no backtracking before UFC 152
September, 12, 2012
By Chad Dundas
Michael Cohen/Zuffa LLCWith UFC 152 just days away, the White-Jones spat finally seems like water under the bridge.In professional sports, it is often said it pays to have a very short memory.
Perhaps that explains why nobody seemed particularly excited about rehashing the recent past on Tuesday as the principals of UFC 152 gathered for a conference call in support of this month’s reshuffled pay-per-view fight card.
Both the company and the event’s participants gave every impression they’d turned the page on the decision three weeks ago to cancel UFC 151 after an injury to Dan Henderson scrapped its planned main event. As for any lingering acrimony between Dana White and Jon Jones or worries about Jones’ makeshift title fight against Vitor Belfort on Sept. 22, the organization was fully back on message.
For the record: Nobody regrets anything they said or did last month. Everybody is focusing on the positives here, people. They’re all looking to the future.
“The past,” the typically philosophical Belfort said during the call, “is a canceled check.”
No, Jones assumedly still doesn’t regret turning down a short-notice fight with Chael Sonnen that might have saved UFC 151. No, White doesn’t regret publicly ripping his own light heavyweight champion over that decision, either. No, the two men haven’t talked about it in person yet, but they will soon.
Now -- if you don’t mind -- everyone involved would feel a lot more comfortable if the rest of us would just move on.
“It just is what it is,” said Jones, who has been bombarded with criticism in the wake of UFC 151’s cancellation. “I’m in a spot and a position in my career where every little word I say, people hang on it. It’s whatever, man -- it’s flattering at times. At the end of the day, I get through all the adversity [and] my only job is to stay focused on the goal.”
The goal, of course, is defeating Belfort, the middleweight who emerged as the surprise No. 1 contender for the 205-pound title after Henderson tweaked his knee and then both Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua declined to step in at UFC 152. For Jones, who has cast himself as a businessman in recent weeks and eschewed other matchups he didn’t believe would sell well, you might assume a bout against a prohibitive underdog who hasn’t even fought in this weight class since 2007 would be underwhelming.
Quite the contrary, he insisted.
Don't watch it. If you don't like the fight and you don't think it's going to be a great fight, don't watch it.".” -- UFC president Dana White, to critics who balked at the UFC 152 main event between Jon Jones and Vitor Belfort
“I think it’s going to be great,” Jones said. “I think a lot of people are going to get together and watch this fight.”
White echoed that sentiment, responding to widespread disapproval of this matchup among fans and analysts in his own classically blunt fashion.
“Don’t watch it,” White said. “If you don’t like the fight and you don’t think it’s going to be a great fight, don’t watch it.”
The call marked the first joint public appearance for White and Jones since their relationship seemed on the verge of evaporating over the UFC 151 kerfuffle. Even for the typically outspoken UFC president, White was acutely irate back on Aug. 24 when he quipped via company press release that the canceled show would be remembered as "the event Jon Jones and [trainer] Greg Jackson murdered."
While he didn’t retract that or any other statement on Tuesday -- like we said, no regrets -- White’s attitude toward Jones appeared to have softened a bit.
“One thing you know about me, in 12 years I don’t take anything back,” he said. “Jon and I haven’t seen each other yet since that whole thing. We’ll see each other in Toronto, and he and I need to get into a room, face to face, and talk. I’ve been in this business for 12 years and I’ve dealt with just about everybody you can deal with -- good guys and bad guys -- and Jon Jones isn’t a bad guy.”
For his part, Jones said he was surprised that White would “belittle” him the way he did last month, but concluded: “I’m over it.”
As for the bad press he’s received during the last few weeks, Jones remained unconcerned. In fact, he was channeling P.T. Barnum.
“Right now there is a lot of buzz around my name,” he said. “Whether it’s good or bad, I think a lot of people are going to tune in to watch a phenom versus another phenom.”
The rest, it would seem, is just ancient history.