Jon Jones finally broke his silence and responded to the tidal wave of new critics he’s gained in the last few weeks in an interview with MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani. It took 41 minutes to explain his thought process and update everyone on his state of mind.
The gist? Sorry about UFC 151, but no regrets. He did what he felt was right, and these things happen for a reason. (And of course, sorry about the plane rebates -- that part sucks.)
Oh, and for all you haters out there, thanks for the free advertising. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that haters are the ones who care the most?
Otherwise, it’s all good. Bring on Vitor!
Obviously I’m making a little light of it, but honestly, what did we expect Jones to say? He said what he had to, and he said what we suspected. He made his fair share of good points.
The situation remains complicated, and it will until time blows it all away. The UFC hitched the blame to Jones for the cancellation of UFC 151 -- a period when the hater mantra switched from cocky and arrogant to chicken and inconsiderate -- when he turned down a short-notice fight with Chael Sonnen. The tide went against Jones. Logic intervened upon reflection. Wasn’t Jones still well within his rights to turn down a patchwork bout with Sonnen on nine days' notice, after he’d been training for Dan Henderson for months? He has a “multimillion-dollar career and a legacy” to protect, and he can’t just comply with willy-nilly matchmaking to save singular events.
It remains easy to see both sides, just as it’s hard to fully understand the conduct of either. The whole thing will be water under the bridge soon enough, but at least now Jones has given his perspective to help clear the air.
Here are a few highlights of the Helwani conversation, with thoughts as to what they might/do/don’t actually mean:
Jones didn’t know the event was dangling in the balance when he made his decision.
Jones made it fairly clear he didn’t know the UFC would cancel the entire card if he turned down the fight. “When I was talking to Dana [White] and Lorenzo [Fertitta] about the situation, they mentioned they had no clue what they were going to do,” he said. That’s a big reveal. If that’s true, then it’s safe to say Jones didn’t know the whole slate of consequences. Then again, he later said he wouldn’t do anything differently, so ... you know ... he’s not second-guessing, nor is he playing up fallback revisionist tactics.
Dan Henderson is at least partially to blame for withholding his knee injury from the UFC for three weeks.
We knew that Jones felt this way from his tweet that said, “blame the old man and his knee.” Accountability should at least be divvied up, and Jones reiterated that. He signed on to fight Dan Henderson, not Henderson and his (undeserving, busybody) friend. Hard to quibble with the literal reasoning here.
Jones turned down Sonnen, but he wouldn’t have turned down everybody on nine day’s notice.
If the UFC had come back with Rashad Evans, we’d have had a UFC 151. Evans is so close to Henderson in fighterly constitution (wrestler, heavy orthodox overhands) that the adjustments could have been made on the fly with Jones and his camp. Otherwise, whatever name the UFC pulled out of its hat would have been turned down the same as Sonnen. But the UFC couldn’t have come up with Evans again, could it? Not after they just fought in April for five unremarkable rounds. That would be redundant, wouldn’t it? And besides, that would be redundant, wouldn’t it?
Chael Sonnen can’t line jump.
Jones “refuses to be anybody’s jackpot.” This is the principle. And Sonnen’s a different warrior than Henderson. This is the principled. Bottom line is Sonnen didn’t deserve the fight in Jones’ mind, and he is a different “warrior” altogether than Hendo. Respect goes into preparation, and Jones simply didn’t have time to prepare. But beyond all that, Jones clearly said he wouldn’t allow Sonnen to jump the line using his mouth. This played an intangible role in him turning the fight down, too. Jones stuck to his guns. In this way, Jones may not be matchmaker, but he’s a preemptive matchbreaker.
Sonnen is a “thug” and a “racist.”
Jones referred to Sonnen as a racist for his attitude toward the people of Brazil. (The word Jones was fishing for is “xenophobe”; Brazil isn’t a race so much as a country ... but his general drift was caught.)
The UFC is also to blame for not having a solid card behind Jones.
“Don’t be p---ed at me, I’m not the one who basically said you’re not good enough for pay-per-view,” Jones said. “That wasn’t my decision. I protect me, myself ... not other fighters, and not the UFC’s brand.” This has been talked about so much in the media that it’s refreshing to hear Jones say it. It’s still basically unassailable. The UFC didn’t have much backing up the main event -- not enough to support a PPV, anyway. It’s not fair to cast Jones as a savior, is it?
And speaking of that, the “cross” tweet wasn’t a comparison to You Know Who.
Jones said he wasn’t likening himself to Jesus Christ in his tweet saying he was “carrying the cross for my company’s decision.” He was making an analogy, so let’s put away all those loaded parallels.
Jones heard the Dana White media tirade and felt like a “piece of meat.”
There’s some disenchantment going on with Jones and the UFC, but it’s not anything that time can’t remedy. Though he didn’t say it outright, Jones looks at Vitor Belfort as a kind Etch-a-Sketch to erasing these recent speed bumps on his ride to glory. In short: He’s a Belfort knockout away from swaying the hordes back into raptures. (This is very easy to imagine).
Jones wonders why nobody is bashing Lyoto Machida.
“What did I do really? I didn’t get hurt. I didn’t cancel the fight,” Jones said. “Then Lyoto goes out and says, ‘I’m not going to fight Jon on three weeks' notice,’ and no one gives Lyoto crap. There’s not one interview or article out there or anything about Lyoto not taking the fight?” He’s got a point, though the situations are plainly different.
But wait ... Jones doesn’t read articles that come out and sticks to his Twitter feed for information.
Jones also pointed out that he doesn’t read the articles. So how he’s following along to what the media’s saying (or not saying) about Machida becomes as enigmatic as Machida’s style. What gives?
Speaking of the Twitter feed ...
“I’ve heard every insult in the book,” Jones said. “I’m starting to become immune to people’s opinion about me. And that’s really the key to a lot of pro athletes' success[es] is that they don’t even do social media. I’m really just contemplating just turning off my relationship with people altogether and just focusing on what really matters -- friends, family, and being the most dominant champion I can be.” In other words, haters may have just turned Jones into J.D. Salinger with a seven-foot wingspan.
Although ... Jones also sees haters as free advertizing.
“One thing I do realize is that I have a great support base and then I have a great hate base,” he said. “But people who hate me are actually showing me how much they care. They care a ton. They know so much about me. Actually, my haters know more about me than my real fans do. And it’s really flattering, almost.” Almost is the operative word. Though flattery is a particularly negative word that has a way of duping us into believing otherwise.
None. OK, some. Jones regrets his DWI violation, but not the way he handled UFC 151. He hasn’t spoken to White since the incident. When he does, and once UFC 152 becomes an afterthought, and new images of “great” Jon Jones replace images of “selfish” Jon Jones, we’ll be back to where we were. That’s what he forecasts.
And if haters persist (which he knows they will), so be it. Jones is building his immunities.