Image is key for star like Jones
There can be little doubt now about the promise of Jon Jones.
Considering the frightening ease with which he has destroyed the competition during his young MMA career, the UFC is absolutely justified in banking that its 23-year-old light heavyweight champion will mature into a giant pay-per-view draw.
He certainly has the means, but tepid numbers from his title turn at UFC 128 suggest he isn't there yet. Additionally, for all the dominance he's displayed in the cage, it is clear Jones has a developing problem. Not a problem with his cardio or his unorthodox stand-up or that injured thumb we've heard so much about lately, but a problem with something even more valuable -- his image.
These are important times for Jones. To live up to his unmatched potential as a star, he'll have to nurture his public persona with the same care he's shown his physical skills. Simply put, he can't afford to appear foolish or deceitful in front of MMA fans. Unfortunately, that's exactly how it looked last week when the news that he doesn't need surgery on his injured hand became a full-on PR gaffe.
That Jones won't go under the knife should have come out in a well-crafted release, where the information could be massaged into exactly what it was: Good news that the champ will return sooner than expected. Simple, right? Somehow, it didn't happen that way.
Instead, it went public in a string of tweets from Jones' manager, each a little more uncomfortable than the last. Worse yet, it seemed to come in response to charges from rival Rashad Evans that Jones was lying about the injury.
The result was that Evans controlled the story, leaving the impression he'd shamed Jones into admitting an embarrassing truth. Some fans even decided Jones is ducking Evans. He isn't -- the two will still fight -- but for Jones, this kind of media disaster is inexcusable.
Most disturbing: It is more indicative of a trend of botched PR than an isolated mistake. If there is any cause for concern about Jones' future popularity, it's the personal stuff: It's the incessant tweeting, the rabbit ears for criticism, the flashes of self-centeredness that occasionally peek out from his otherwise overly scripted demeanor.
Much of this we're willing to overlook because Jones is 23 and may be the best in the world at 205 pounds. He's so talented that his performances in the Octagon have thus far overshadowed the awkwardness of his growing into his own celebrity.
That will go only so far, though. If Jones is to become the kind of bankable star the UFC wants him to be, his image moving forward needs to be as flawless as his victories.
Always leave 'em wanting more!
Nobody likes an impasse.
That's what a draw is, and, as Dana White says, "Draws suck." This becomes the crux of the UFC's thinking behind making nontitle main events into five-round fights rather than the traditional three. Even if a draw is an honest assessment (much like the endangered 10-10 round), it can't help but stink. It's why Americans veto soccer.
The truth is, there have been eight draws in the UFC in the past eight years going back to UFC 43 (Ian Freeman against Vernon White). Granted, six of them have come in the past three years (and half of those got that way via point deductions). But at a rate of one a year, this seems like a flimsy premise for campaigning for a change. Catering to the immediate past doesn't solve the open future.
Besides, adding rounds doesn't mean things can't end up in a knot (see: Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard II). So, the real reason for the change is that there are going to be those fights when you say, "Wow, I wish that could have gone another round." It's inevitable.
My question is: Whatever happened to "Leave 'em wanting more"?
Aside from what the motivations are, is it a good idea to make main events into five-round affairs? I say no.
For one thing, extra rounds don't guarantee 10 extra minutes of bang-for-your-buck excitement. More importantly, it taints the one designation in place to separate a title fight from an ordinary fight.
This says nothing of the complications that arise when fighters are hurt or scratched for whatever reason and replacements are brought in or a new main event is made late in the game. Do we make that a five-round fight even though the fighters in it haven't been training that way, or keep it three as an exception? The muddles are many.
Under the unified rules, it's the UFC's right to make the switch to five-round main events. It is in its control to do this and take the fight out of the judges' hands (for a little longer, anyway). But just because the UFC can drag main-event fights out doesn't mean it should.
I understand that gratification is what's being debated here. It's why hockey instituted the shootout. This is a little different, though. They're called the "championship rounds," not the "main-event rounds." And that distinction has to stay in place.
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