The fallout from the biggest debacle in UFC history continues, with the man at the centre of the controversy speaking out for the first time.
When asked why he refused to take a fight against Chael Sonnen on eight days’ notice after his original opponent (Dan Henderson) got injured, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones said he would not take a fight against a “dangerous opponent” who hasn’t come anywhere near earning a title shot.
In an interview with Ariel Helwani at MMAFighting, Jones revealed exactly why he reached the decision that eventually led to the cancellation of a UFC event for the first time in the promotion’s history.
[Sonnen] has a 5-6 record in the UFC and lost his last two fights. Why would I put a world championship on the line against a very dangerous opponent but one who hasn’t even remotely earned the right to consider himself to be in the position to fight for the world title? That’s like winning the jackpot and I refuse to be anybody’s jackpot… I clearly said that I would not allow Chael Sonnen to jump the line by using his mouth. And what was he doing? Jumping the line by using his mouth.
His vitriol against Sonnen continued:
It’s like, why would I contradict myself when I clearly just said that I think Chael Sonnen is a racist? The way he treats Brazilians is totally uncalled for; I have zero respect for him… Chael Sonnen is a punk, he’s a thug… He calls himself the American Gangster but he ratted out all his friends in that money laundering situation? That’s not gangster. He’s a straight punk. He won’t be remembered… Chael’s words hold no substance.
Sonnen has been calling out Jones for weeks now, following the announcement that he was moving up to light heavyweight after his middleweight title fight loss to Anderson Silva. His words clearly got under Jones’ skin, and the two have engaged in a public war of words since.
When injury jeopardised the UFC 151 main event—a title match between Jones and Henderson—Sonnen didn’t skip a beat in stepping up and has continued to attack Jones for not taking the fight.
The criticism against Jones has been severe and has come from all corners—not the least from his boss, Dana White.
Talking frankly to Helwani, Jones said that he felt hurt by the UFC president.
I really felt hurt by Dana… I’ve tried by best, my absolute best, to be a person who’s extremely nice to all the fans, whether they’re my fans or not. I’ve tried my best to always create positivity, always try to be a good dude, a good representative of the UFC… I do everything they ask me to do… You know it really hurt. It really hurt to be on that different spectrum. To be compared to Tito Ortiz. I don’t complain about money, I don’t complain about anything. I do what I’m told. I’m the champion that fights way more than any other champion. So you go from being really close, I mean at the last press conference, right after I beat Rashad [Dana] was like “don’t you just love this guy,” and now it’s like I’m just hated? Because I did what was right for me and my future?
White has had choice words for Jones, in particular his coach Greg Jackson, for not taking the fight against Sonnen. During a conference call announcing the cancellation of the event, White said he was disgusted by both men.
“This is one of the most selfish, disgusting decisions that doesn’t just affect you,” White said at the time.
For over a week, Jones maintained his silence but has now spoken out, saying that he “felt like a piece of meat” during the whole situation. He added that the men also due to fight at UFC 151 shouldn’t blame him for its cancellation, just because they weren’t considered strong enough to carry the event.
Jones is now due to face Vitor Belfort, who marks his return to light heavyweight for the first time since 2007, at UFC 152 on Sept. 22. Jones said he was “honoured” to fight Belfort, who “is a Christian like I am, a respectable man, a good, classy clean-cut guy.”