By Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times –
In a stare-down between the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the light-heavyweight champion generally considered its most marketable star, the UFC blinked Thursday.
Jon Jones rejected an order to fight the UFC’s suggested injury replacement fighter Chael Sonnen, and the organization thus took the unprecedented step of scrapping its entire UFC 151 card, scheduled for Sept. 1 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
“This is probably one of my all-time lows as being president of UFC,” said Dana White.
Jones’ scheduled opponent, Dan Henderson, tore a medial collateral ligament in his right knee during training and was unable to resume preparations after visiting a doctor.
White wanted to insert Sonnen, the brash former middleweight challenger who dropped a second-round technical knockout to champion Anderson Silva on July 7 and carries extra weight.
White quoted Jones as telling the president, “I’m not fighting Chael Sonnen with eight days’ notice,” and said Jones’ trainer, Greg Jackson, advised that taking on Sonnen “would be the biggest mistake of” Jones’ life.
Jackson, said White, “is a sport killer,” adding that he and UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta are “disgusted” by Jones’ decline of Sonnen. Jones earlier this month signed a marketing deal with Nike.
The UFC responded quickly by making a Jones fight versus former light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida on the UFC 152 card Sept. 22 in Toronto. Jones is a strong 5-to-1 favorite after beating Machida last year.