When former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones tested positive for cocaine, the organization and president Dana White released statements that described Jones as a “strong, courageous fighter,” with White going as far as to say, “I am proud of Jon Jones for making the decision to enter a drug treatment facility. I’m confident that he’ll emerge from this program like the champion he truly is.”
One would think that one of the faces of the promotion testing positive for an illegal drug like cocaine would merit more concern from the UFC, especially when Jones followed up that positive drug test with an arrest for his involvement in a hit-and-run accident. It was only then that the UFC stripped Jones of his title and suspended him indefinitely.
Now, take the case of UFC featherweight champion José Aldo. Aldo suffered a rib injury while training for his title fight at UFC 189 against Conor McGregor. At first, White and the UFC tried to downplay news of the injury, tweeting “everyone relax” and a vague smile emoticon. Physicians employed by the UFC allegedly examined Aldo and claimed the rib wasn’t fractured.
But then there was this:
Aldo’s exams pic.twitter.com/Y6mee0gtPZ
— Ana Hissa (@AnaHissa) July 2, 2015
Visual evidence that Aldo, in fact, fractured his rib and had to withdraw from the fight. Following that revelation, White wasn’t exactly as understanding as he was following Jones’ positive drug test:
White seems to lay the blame squarely on Aldo’s shoulders for ruining the title fight with McGregor that the UFC promoted incessantly, even at the expense of the co-main event at UFC 189 — another title fight at welterweight between champion Robbie Lawler and Rory McDonald.
Of all people, White should know that injuries happen all the time in mixed martial arts. To his credit, White seemed to be equally critical of former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and his team at American Kickboxing Academy after repeated injuries in training forced Velasquez to take nearly a two-year hiatus.
But was it Aldo who made the UFC take him and McGregor on a world tour to promote UFC 189? Was it Aldo who made UFC go all in on his fight, even though, again, there is another title fight on Saturday’s card? No. The scorn for Aldo isn’t limited to just White either, with some members of the MMA media saying Aldo dropping out of Saturday’s fight (again, despite visual evidence of injury) could negatively affect his legacy. It’s a claim that would be so laughable if it wasn’t so absurd for a fighter who’s been undefeated for nearly a decade.
Of course, fans worldwide had to contribute their eloquent thoughts too:
— Jon Kinsella (@jonkinsella) July 3, 2015
— Whatever, Trevor. (@VoltySquirrel) July 3, 2015
Uneducated fans who have no experience in MMA are free to speculate on whether Aldo was faking this injury, no matter how ignorant it makes them appear. But for the president of the UFC to so blatantly throw one of his champions under the bus, while handling others with kid gloves and putting others on a pedestal, is unfortunate at best and irresponsible at worst. Furthermore, it is borderline criminal for the UFC and physicians who are paid by the company to imply that Aldo didn’t suffer a fractured rib at all.
An undefeated record for nearly a decade and 10 consecutive title victories and defenses. Victories over the best featherweight fighters the world has to offer (and in the case of Chad Mendes, two wins). Routine consideration as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, if not the best. These accolades should make Aldo one of the most beloved fighters in the world. Not only by fans, but by the UFC as well.
Instead, Aldo is blamed for something that happens to all fighters. He is forced to suffer ridicule and scorn from all corners, not just from his formerly scheduled opponent. It’s an undeserved outcome for one of the world’s greatest fighters.