Well, this certainly isn't the way you want to kick off a Thursday morning:
Before I delve into the various instinctual responses my body went through upon reading that news, let me first share the light heavyweight champion's reasoning for choosing to fight Glover Teixeira instead of opting for the one fight everyone wants to see: Alexander Gustafsson. Per a UFC press release (via ESPN.com):
I said before the fight my sights were set on breaking the record. I want to crush the record. I want to beat the record so bad it can never be broken. I'm going to fight Glover and I will answer all the critics about the Gustafsson fight.
I will fight Gustafsson after I fight Glover. I won the fight but I look at it as a blemish on my record because some people think I didn't. I promise you, he will be next.
Just so we're clear about why Jones vs. Gustafsson II isn't happening, here's what UFC president Dana White told ESPN.com's Brett Okamoto on Wednesday: "That's what the champ wants. We'll probably have that fight on the Super Bowl card in New Jersey."
To recap: Jones doesn't want to fight Gustafsson next. He wants to fight Teixeira. And after he beats Teixeira, he'll gladly fight Gustafsson again to answer all the critics (fans) who thought he lost to the lanky Swede at UFC 165.
Here's my problem with the whole idea, which appears to be one of Jones' creation: He's fighting Teixeira instead of jumping into an immediate rematch with Gustafsson.
Over the past five years, the UFC has shown a willingness to force immediate rematches—especially following particularly close championship fights—despite loud and lengthy protests from the fighters involved.
Frankie Edgar vs. B.J. Penn. Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard. Frankie Edgar vs. Benson Henderson. All were close fights in their initial offerings, and all were immediately put back together.
And the thing about all three of those fights? None of them remotely sent fans into rapture the way Jones vs. Gustafsson did at UFC 165, and there's a good chance the light heavyweight rematch would pull in more pay-per-view buys than all of those lightweight fights combined.
Jones is proving to be a force in the UFC, but he's also establishing something we've never seen with the world's largest fighting promotion: an athlete fully in control of his career and destiny, that doesn't bow to pressure from the UFC.
Dana White is not in charge of Jones. He's not his boss. He's Jones' promoter, and he must be willing to accept Jones' decisions, even when it means canceling events for the first time in history or foregoing a big-money rematch just because Jones doesn't want to do it.
That's all well and good, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit pleased to see it. But that also means that if there's no Gustafsson rematch, well, that's on Jones. And he's not making a good decision here.
Jones wants new challengers. There's no harm in that, and I get it. But a rematch with Gustafsson might pull in well over a million buys. It's the first fight of Jones career where fans are truly salivating to see it, and though I had Jones winning the fight 49-46, I still recognize that it was close and controversial. Judging by his comments above, Jones also recognizes this simple truth.
For much of his career, Jones has suffered from an image problem. Sure, plenty of that stemmed from the cancellation of UFC 151, with White unjustly placing the blame squarely on Jones rather than focusing on the fact that his promotion put together a card held together by Jones, some string and Silly Putty.
But White's anti-Jones campaign worked, with the end result being that his light heavyweight champion isn't well liked by the fans and doesn't pull in the kind of interest he should. So that plan worked great, Dana!
Here's the rub: I love how Jones is able to assert himself as the champion, and I'm glad he's willing to do so. But I don't love that he's fighting Teixeira next, and I think it's a bit crazy that he's not seeing the bigger picture.
The fight, as mentioned a million times before today, was close. We all want to see it again. Hell, I'd pay $100 right now if you'd put them in a cage and air the fight on pay-per-view, and it's morning in the middle of a work week. I suspect a lot of you feel the same way. We want this fight again, and we don't want to wait until after Jones fights Teixeira.
That wasn't always the case. Before his underwhelming performance against Ryan Bader, plenty of us wanted to see Jones cruise past Gustafsson and move onto the Brazilian. But post-Bader, I can't think of a single right-thinking person outside of Brazil who feels the same way they did before. After Jones and Gustafsson's thrilling bout, we're all desperate to see the rematch.
Things may well go the way Jones says they will. I don't foresee Teixeira beating Jones in any aspect of mixed martial arts, and so perhaps we'll get that rematch next summer, after all.
But what if Gustafsson loses his next fight, while he's waiting around? The rematch loses its luster. The UFC loses a big-money fight. And Jones will add yet another reason for fans to wrongly dislike him when they should be sitting back and enjoying one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport practicing his art in the cage.
History has shown us that waiting for rematches is a terrible idea.
White has changed his mind before when it comes to rematches. We should all hope Jones does the same. Teixeira can wait; there is no time better for "Bones" to step back in the cage with Gustafsson.
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