Like most who witnessed the highly-hyped Floyd “Money” Mayweather vs. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez super-fight on Sept. 14, UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones was awed by the brilliant performance boxing’s pound-for-pound king put on against the significantly younger, stronger, and bigger Mexican challenger, dominating the fight from start to finish.
“His swagger, his work ethic shined through,” Jones said while chatting it up with reporters. “It’s great to see a champion show his heart and his winning ways. It’s great to see a champion get what he deserves. That really, really encourages me.”
With a record $41 million guaranteed purse and a portion of the historic $150 million revenue generated by the 2.2 million pay per view buys reported so far for Mayweather vs. Alvarez, Money is certainly getting what he deserves and a lot more.
Unfortunately for Jones, even though he’s arguably the most talented fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, he isn’t anywhere close to being the biggest draw in the promotion.
UFC president Dana White recently shared his thoughts on Jones’ unpopularity during an interview with The Telegraph.
“Fighters are what they are,” White explained. “Jon Jones comes off as a heel because people don’t like him. For whatever reason people don’t like him, you know. … There’s plenty of black fighters. People loved Rampage [Quinton Jackson]. People love Anderson [Silva]. I don’t think it’s a black or a white thing. I think it’s something about his personality that people don’t like.”
While there are many other contributing factors to Jones’ bad rap like his DUI conviction, somewhat sanctimonious personality, and the fact he makes fan-boy favorites like Chael Sonnen look like amateurs inside the Octagon, race certainly plays a part as well.
Sure, other black MMA fighters like Quinton Jackson were once liked by the UFC’s mostly white male audience (he also got a lot of flak for beating up Chuck Liddell and contrived controversies like hump-gate), but that’s because he fit into stereotypes they were comfortable with. Besides, the lovefest didn’t last that long.
Former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva has a decent following among North American MMA fans even though he doesn’t conform to expected stereotypes, but I wouldn’t go as far as to call him loved, especially considering his historic accomplishments inside the cage.
Fortunately for Anderson, racial dynamics are much different in his native Brazil, and he gets the unrelenting support of his countrymen from all spectrums of the rainbow. Thanks to Brazil’s strengthening middleclass, a decent number of Brazilian MMA fans can afford to catch a flight and go watch a fight in Las Vegas, which helps cover up the fact Silva really isn’t that popular in the U.S.
Haven’t you ever noticed the crowd chanting “Uh vai morrer” during Silva’s fight? Where did you think those people where from, Mississippi?
The reality is: black MMA fighters — or athletes in general — typically have a harder time connecting with fans in the U.S. and that’s something the UFC, Jones, and Dana White will never be able to control. However, it is possible to capitalize on that harsh reality.
After all, a black boxer who is despised by many in the U.S and around the globe is the biggest draw in combat sports right now, with record setting purses to go with it.