The Ultimate Fighting Championship is back Sept. 22 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for UFC 152. The card features two championship fights between UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Vitor Belfort as well as the first ever flyweight championship fight between Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson. All that to say … FINALLY!
The last time the UFC held just one event, in a month, it was March 2012. Since then multiple fight cards have been held monthly, effectively spoiling MMA fans and media alike. This leads perfectly into the debacle known as UFC 151 where, essentially, the UFC canceled an entire event based on the fallout of one fight on that card — Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson.
Admittedly, I’ve oversimplified a situation that has more depth than a Norah Jones song, but the punch line is the same. Injury led to matchmaking scramble, which led to cancellation. While the drama surrounding the cancellation of UFC 151 continues to stir MMA media and fighters, a question still lingers. Who’s truly at fault?
If you polled MMA fans today, on that very question, their answer would probably ring out like a Southern Baptist choir singing — Jon Jones. Frankly, almost everyone points to Jones as the scapegoat for UFC 151, but is he to blame for the collapse of an entire card? No.
Here’s the bottom line. UFC 151 was canceled due to injury. Yes, let me repeat, UFC 151 was canceled due to injury. With the UFC selling us a glass of Jon Jones “Haterade,” we have conveniently missed the true issue plaguing the future of the promotion and MMA as a whole — injuries.
With an injury-plagued 2012 year, who could blame the UFC for shifting the focus off themselves and onto, practically, anything or anyone else? Like using duct tape to stop a leaky pipe, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing the same seepage again. Unless MMA promotions start to address and educate their fighters on training smarter not harder, injuries will continue to rear their ugly head. Unfortunately, for the UFC, it has once again!
This past Tuesday, that relentless arthropod known as the injury bug took a bite out of another UFC fight card. A trifecta of trouble hit when featherweight champion Jose Aldo and light heavyweight contenders Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Vladimir Matyushenko had to pull out of their matches at UFC 153 Rio due to injury. Once again, the injury epidemic has caused a headache for UFC president Dana White and irritation among MMA fans. Which brings us back to our original question. Whose fault is it?
As MMA continues its meteoric rise from subculture domain to mainstream America, injuries are going to become a hot-button topic and a potential stumbling block to future growth. At this point the UFC is entering the dangerous territory of “the promotion who cries wolf” and, unless they start finding a way to combat fighter injuries, the only person to blame is themselves.
Scott Levesque writes a weekly column for the Clarion on mixed martial arts. He will cover MMA at the local, state and national levels. His handle on Twitter is @scottlevesque.