Saturday, September 1, 2012

HANSEN: Why Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua deserve backlash for turning down Jon Jones at UFC 152

By: Rich Hansen, MMATorch Columnist

For reasons previously explained, it made total sense for Jon Jones to fight at UFC 152. The downside, however, is that not a lot of fighters want to fight Jones on four weeks notice. It's ok to bash Jones for not fighting Chael Sonnen on eight days' notice, but God forbid we criticize every other fighter who was offered a TITLE SHOT ON FOUR WEEKS NOTICE? Give me a break. If you are one of the fools calling out Jon Jones for not risking his belt on extremely short notice, then you damned well better loathe fighters like Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua who turned down title shots with four weeks' notice. Let's break this down a bit:

If Jon Jones loses his title to Chael Sonnen in a fight he took on eight days notice (only three of which could be spent planning for Sonnen), his career is damaged. No matter how much an immediate rematch would draw, once you're champion your only motivation in life is to remain champion. Ask a team that just won the World Cup if they'd risk giving up the World Cup for a shot to win it again the next time they play kicky-ball. No chance in hell. Yet the entire world, including the entire MMA media sans Greg Doyel) is in lockstep with Uncle Dana's rant against Jon Jones and Greg Jackson? Please.

Look, would it have been nice if Jones accepted the risky but extremely winnable fight with Chael Sonnen? Sure. And he'd be a super-duper nice guy for doing so. And Dana would promise to make it up to Jones (just like he made up for Abu Dhabi like he promised. Still waiting...). Unfortunately, there's not one good reason other than the knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers credo of 'FIGHTERS FIGHT, DUDE!' for Jones to have taken that fight. Jones is not, repeat, not a UFC employee. He's an independent contractor, period. Just because the UFC wants him to do something does not mean he's obligated to do so. why is this so hard for the peanut gallery to fathom?

Lyoto Machida earned a title shot by defeating Ryan Bader (read that phrase back, it's funny). In a perfect world, Machida would have another full training camp to prepare for his seconds fight with Jones; the same Jones for whom he already studied his ass off less than a year ago. Unless he has amnesia, he knows how he wants to fight Jones the next time out. Not only did he study for Jones, but I guarandamntee you that Machida has had dozens of sleepless nights replaying that fight in his brain; coming up with tons of things he would do differently. It is completely reasonable for Machida to not take the Jones fight on eight days notice. Hell, I commend him for not just doing what Dana tells him to do, no matter the consequence. However, given the circumstances, Machida deserves our scorn and disdain for turning down the September 22 fight with Jones.

Again, Machida knows Jones as well as or better than any other fighter in the UFC. He's the only guy to take a round off of Jones in the UFC. He's the only fighter to give Jones any semblance of a challenge. He's had one full camp for Jones already, and he's had eight months to ruminate over that fight. There's no way in hell he wouldn't be able to fight Jones to the best of his ability on September 22. Since he chose the path of least resistance, he's now likely going to have to take another fight before getting a title shot. If there's one thing Anthony Pettis knows, until the cage is locked and the bell sounds, there's no such thing as a guaranteed title shot.

Once Lyoto Machida decided that he didn't want to try to become the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, after constantly telling Dana white how much he wanted to be champion in the build-up to the Fox show, Shogun Rua was next in line. Shogun turned down the September 22 date, hoping instead to be able to fight in Rio on October 13 on a (by modern standards) loaded UFC 153 card. Um, that was never going to happen. So, Rua decided that he didn't want to be champion, and would prefer to try to beat Alexander Gustafsson, and then hope to be given a shot ahead of Dan Henderson, Lyoto Machida, and possibly Glover Teixeira. Lest we forget, Dana holds grudges forever, and there's no guarantee that Dana won't decide that Teixeira deserves a title shot more than Shogun does. In short, Shogun decided to choose the path of most resistance, yet it's Jones who is being battered. Yeah, that makes all the sense in the world.

So, with all that said, who should Jones be fighting on September 22? I would have canibalized UFC 153, but not for Vitor Belfort. I'd have gone with Glover Teixeira. Teixeira would be a horrible choice, but at least he's won a freaking light heavyweight fight in the last five years. Unlike Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen.


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