On Thursday, August 23, UFC President Dana White announced the cancellation of UFC 151, a pay-per-view mixed martial arts event scheduled for Saturday, September 1. The bombshell decision was released following a series of failed attempts to reestablish a contender for Jon “Bones” Jones’ title. Jones’ initial opponent, Dan Henderson, tore his medial collateral ligament during his training routine for the upcoming match, and had to drop out of the championship fight just eight days before the event.
With time running out, White and other officials at the UFC scrambled to save the fight by finding an appropriate opponent for Jones. The UFC’s representatives have not released the names of every fighter contacted about the opportunity, but a few have been confirmed. Both Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua declined to fight the champ due to the time constraints. In the end it was Chael Sonnen who agreed to the title shot, allegedly telling Dana White that he would get on a plane and fight Jones that very night. Sonnen lost his last two championship fights to Anderson Silva, but was quick to take advantage of this unexpected opportunity.
When Jones was contacted by the UFC about the replacement, Jones’ coach, Greg Jackson, told the fighter that agreeing to fight Sonnen on eight days’ notice would be a huge mistake. Jones then declined the proposed fight, a decision that led to Dana White officially cancelling the event, a first in UFC history.
According to Dana White in a press conference held after Jones’ decision, fallout from the event’s cancellation was “huge,” and he was quick to place the blame, stating that “UFC 151 will be remembered as the event Jon Jones and Greg Jackson murdered.” White went on to discuss those hurt by the decision, saying “many people, from fans to PPV distributors, TV networks, sponsors, and more importantly fighters who are working hard to support their families and build their careers are hurt badly by this selfish decision.”
Jones apologized to outraged UFC fans and his fellow fighters via Twitter on Saturday, August 25, stating that he feels “terrible about the way that was handled.” Coach Greg Jackson defended his advice to Jones, saying that it would have been unprofessional for Jones to accept a fight “with a guy that’s ready, on three days’ notice, for a world championship.”
Following the official cancellation of UFC 151, ticket refunds became available at the point of purchase. As of yet, the UFC has successfully rescheduled 7 of the 10 main and preliminary card fights. Jones vs. Machida was initially announced for UFC 152 in Toronto, but Machida backed out after asking for more preparation time. Fans in Toronto are reaping the benefits of UFC 151’s cancellation as Vitor Belfort has been officially announced as Jones’ opponent at 152 on September 22. Another rescheduled 151 fight, Charlie Brenneman vs. Kyle Noke, will take place at 152 during the preliminary card.
Several of the remaining undercard matches have been postponed until later events. Five of these will take place on free-view television on FX (October 5) and FUEL (November 10), while the final three are still being decided upon.
UFC has flourished in Canada, the country most recently hosted UFC 149 at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary. The added fights on the UFC 152 card in Toronto will only strengthen the demand. VIP fan experience tickets are available for the event through Eventbrite.