Apparently only one fighter stepped in to accept the fight – none other than Chael Sonnen – but the champion, with advice from trainer Greg Jackson, decided to decline.
So with no main event, White was forced to cancel UFC 151.
Jones will, and should, take much of the blame for this dark day in MMA. White was noticeably disgusted at Jones and Jackson during the press conference, saying that Jackson is “killing the sport,” which is a notion that alludes not only to this particular instance, but also to his tactical, somewhat reserved, game plans during fights. In reference to Jones, White called it a “selfish, disgusting decision,” which are incredibly harsh words for the guy who is shaping up to be the long-term face of the UFC brand.
But part of the blame for this debacle needs to be placed squarely on White. In his attempt to rapidly expand, he’s simply stretched the UFC roster too thin. With fights occurring nearly every weekend, the pool of fighters he can draw from when injuries occur isn’t deep enough to sustain the high quality of fights that fans have come to expect. If Shogun Rua and Lyoto Machida had not just fought a couple weeks ago, one of them could have easily stepped in to fight. Although it’s possible Jones would have declined to fight them as well.
This card was also completely carried by the star power of Jones, and losing him did irreparable damage. In some cases when the main event is scrapped, the other fights are good enough that White can simply bump them up the fight card and the event barely skips a beat. UFC 151’s co-main event was Jake Ellenberger vs. Jay Hieron, a fight that people wouldn’t be interested in if it was on free TV.
So there are a lot of factors that have led to one of the worst moments in UFC history. The only guy in this whole mess who comes out sparkling clean is, Sonnen, who surely deserves praise for accepting a fight with a monstrous young talent like Jones on just eight days notice.
White has stated that with Henderson recovering from the MCL tear, Jones will now fight Machida at 152 on September 22.