Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Jones mum on Gustafsson rematch
By Brett Okamoto
As of Tuesday afternoon, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones had not agreed to a rematch against Alexander Gustafsson on Aug. 30 in Las Vegas.
He hadn’t turned it down, either -- which actually adds to the problem as far as the UFC is concerned.
Jones, 26, is entering perhaps the prime of his athletic career at the same time the UFC is looking to extend his contract. Back-and-forth negotiations might be inevitable.
The UFC hopes for an Aug. 30 rematch between Alexander Gustafsson and Jon Jones, but Jones has not signed off on the bout agreement.
The issue right now, however, is that no negotiations are taking place. According to UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta, Jones and his management have been unresponsive since the UFC offered Jones the Gustafsson rematch early last week.
That might have had something to do with the UFC’s decision to uncharacteristically announce the Jones-Gustafsson fight on Saturday, before Jones agreed to it. Get it out in the public, get Jones to respond, hopefully get the ball moving a bit.
The announcement, coupled with Gustafsson’s verbal commitment to the fight, has apparently had little effect on Jones, however. When asked if the fighter or his management had reached out to the UFC since Saturday, Fertitta simply answered, “Nothing.”
Jones’ team also has not responded to ESPN.com’s requests for comment.
Ideally, the situation will be sorted out in time for the rematch to headline UFC 177 on Labor Day weekend. The UFC already has secured the Aug. 30 date at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and a Jones headliner would fit well into its schedule.
If negotiations stall, the UFC might consider a September date, possibly in Sweden, although that likely wouldn’t be the promotion's -- or the champion’s (when you consider fighting in Sweden) -- first choice.
UFC president Dana White has gone on record saying the rematch could produce a 50,000-seat sellout in Stockholm. The UFC would want to announce an event of that size soon though, with plenty of time to market it and work out logistics.
“Two things go into having a stadium show,” Fertitta told ESPN.com. “It has to be the right fight and you have to have time to get behind the promotion of it.
“One thing about stadium shows, you get the benefit of the fact the show gets bigger. People talk about it. It becomes more of a spectacle. You sell more tickets, but the cost to set the thing up almost takes away that additional revenue.
“If we did that fight in Sweden, we would probably do it early in the morning. We’d have to deal with, is public transportation open? Are services, fire, police available at three or four in the morning? It’s not as easy as saying, ‘Let’s do a stadium show in Sweden.’ There is a lot we would have to figure out.”
Jones (20-1), despite all the veteran names on his resume, is looking at arguably the most challenging year of his career.
He dominated a durable, athletic opponent in Glover Teixeira last month at UFC 172. A rematch against Gustafsson (16-2), who took him to the brink of defeat at UFC 165 in August, and (if timing allows) a fight against an undefeated former heavyweight in Daniel Cormier (15-0) would make for an exceptional year.
Of course, Jones’ critics have attributed his silence on the Gustafsson rematch to fear -- and it is fair to note Jones has never appeared delighted when speaking about a second fight against Gustafsson.
In reality, however, the holdup is most likely connected to Jones’ contract extension and, at least for now, his current silence during the negotiation of it.