Don’t get me wrong. I am not here to claim that Jones’ actual victory over Vitor Belfort holds any kind of true merit. Not to take anything away from “The Phenom,” but if we are honest with ourselves, Jones beating Belfort doesn’t really “cement his legacy.” The only historical outcome that would’ve mattered at the conclusion of that fight is if Jones hadn’t slipped that armbar and Vitor would’ve broken the champ, or if Vitor had been able to get inside and do some damage with his striking, thus KO’ing the younger Jones.
Prior to the event Jones was quoted at the press conference as saying, “I do believe that with a good performance I can put this past me…for the people that refuse to forget I don’t know what to say about that, life’s about moving forward…I believe that the fans are going to get over it.”
I don’t believe that’s the case either…at least not yet. Too fresh in the minds of many MMA fans is the perception (fair or unfair though it may be) that Jones ducked the offer of a fight against Chael Sonnen.
“Not only can I handle adversity inside the cage but outside the cage as well,” Jones stated following his fight with Belfort.
It’s a fair statement to say that an armbar by a Jiu Jitsu black belt qualifies as adversity. But does that impress the fans that largely may have turned on Jones? If the UFC 151 cancellation did anything it’s remind us that Jones isn’t perfect. In fact, that disaster may have only served to reignite memories of Jones’s misstep with a DUI earlier this year, further alienating fans. The cancellation of a PPV pales in comparison to drunk driving, even if the only victim was a tree.
So do we care that Jones beat out the background noise of those that say he’s a classic case of too much-to soon? Right now, the only conceivable answer is: it can’t hurt. In all likelihood, Jones would have had an even greater exodus of fans had he dropped the strap to Belfort this past weekend.
The heart of the matter is MMA fans need to be more realistic. As the history of MMA grows, so will the poor decisions, and questionable actions of its human athletes- no different than any other sport. Time will be the true test of whether Jones has truly matured from a rash, naïve celebrity to an analytical, seasoned champ.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC