UFC president Dana White blasted Jon Jones for refusing to fight at UFC 151. Yet a few days later I think it is fair to ask whether White’s honesty will cost Zuffa more money over the next decade than any cancelled event could ever account for?
Now that the dust has settled I think it is fair to look at the situation with a little more clarity. To recap, Dan Henderson had to pull out of his UFC 151 fight with champion Bones Jones. Jones declined the opportunity to fight Chael Sonnen as a replacement with eight days notice. Without a main-event, UFC 151 was outright cancelled, costing the company millions of dollars in paid promotion that will never be recouped. White has put the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of his champion.
MMA fans and even some members of the media flooded the Internet, blogs, and talk radio shows with anger and hatred directed at the light heavyweight champion. I listened to one show where caller after caller said they would never buy another Jon Jones fight again. I read several blogs which were flooded with comments from fans that refused to ever purchase anything featuring Jones out of principal alone. The situation got ugly fast and by the end of the day Dana White probably cost his company more money than Jon Jones or anyone else that has ever refused a fight in the UFC.
Dana White became the UFC, Zuffa, and Fox network’s worst enemy last week. By White passionately telling his fans that Jones was a coward and cost young, struggling fighters their money, he made Jon Jones arguably the most hated champion in UFC history. I can’t think of a worst business move than vilifying the man who is positioned to be the face and future of your company in such public fashion.
The UFC, FX, and anyone else invested in UFC 151 won’t get their money back. Yet in the big picture of Zuffa, the money lost will be recouped going forward with other revenue sources. Two years from now, Zuffa won’t even notice the money lost from UFC 151. However, what they will notice is a trend of disappointing buyrates featuring the public face of their company. Believe me, Dana White will be kissing Jon Jones’ butt a year from now like nothing ever happened. He may forget but the fans who passionately follow the UFC and MMA won’t forget so fast.
White’s mouth is a problem and continues to be a problem for the UFC. Sitting on Fox seconds after Cain Velasquez was knocked out and criticizing one of his biggest stars does nobody any favors. All of those nasty promos he cut on Tito Ortiz probably cost the UFC millions of dollars when they decided they wanted to start promoting Tito. The damage done last week to the company will be unprecedented going forward. When Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva retire and they have to rely on Jones, this company is screwed thanks to Dana White.
Dana White wants to sit there and blame Jon Jones for taking food out of fighter’s mouths. How about the fact that White has severely damaged potentially the biggest drawing card in the company over the next few years? Fighters will be making a lot less money if 250,000 people are buying Jon Jones’ fights as opposed to 850,000. Cancelling UFC 151 may have cost these fighters money in the short term, but over the long term Dana has cost them and their peers more money with his mouth.
The irony here is that Jones is already having problems connecting with MMA fans. Jones has been a disappointment as a draw thus far as champion, something Dana was quick to point out during the press conference. I know that some people think that the fans will forget about this after Jones puts together a few wins, but the UFC is already having problems selling their champion. If and it is a big if Jones rebounds after whatever public relations hit he takes here, he will still be a disappointing draw. It would take a miracle for Jones to become a consistent draw on the levels of GSP or Anderson Silva after last week.
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