After witnessing countless MMA cards get stung by the injury bug last year, UFC president Dana White has become an expert at adjusting on the fly. During Saturday’s UFC 126 post-fight press conference, White revealed how he determined budding superstar Jon Jones earned next dibs at Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s light heavyweight title.
“I don’t know if you saw, but earlier we told Shogun that, ‘Listen, if this kid wins, we want to put him in there for the fight [with you at UFC 128],'” White said of his conversation with the Brazilian. “We talked for a while about it.
“Right before Jones and [Ryan] Bader came out, him and his team accepted the fight.”
The decision not only presented the 23-year-old with the chance of a lifetime, but perhaps more importantly, the opportunity to fulfill the G.O.A.T. destiny the tarot cards predicted many moons ago. For obvious reasons, White has slow-played Jones’ skyrocketing career. “Bones” is special, perhaps a once-in-a-generation type of fighter.
Bader represented the toughest test Jones had taken through 13 professional bouts. The way the man-child manhandled “Darth” to hand him his first professional blemish reaffirmed White’s choice. However, it wasn’t because Jones knew what was at stake prior to entering the cage on Saturday night.
“This kid has enough pressure already,” White said of his tight-lipped plan. “He’s going into this big fight with Bader. You don’t want to sit there and go, ‘Hey, if you win this fight, how would you like to fight Shogun?”
“This whole thing just sort of played out. It literally played out beside the Octagon right before Bader and Jones walked out.”
Although Jones’ fate was predetermined with a win, Bader wouldn’t have been offered the five-round affair had he overcome his 2-to-1 underdog status. When asked what Plan B was if the long shot had shocked the world, MMA’s ultimate big boss admitted his options were limited to one.
“There was not [a back-up plan],” White admitted.