Jon Jones said he feels terrible about the effect his refusal to fight Chael Sonnen had on fans and fighters whose cards were canceled after UFC 151 went up in smoke.
Jones, 25-year-old UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, was supposed to fight Dan Henderson in UFC 151 next month, but the latter was forced to back out of the fight with a recent knee injury. Dana White, UFC president, revealed that Sonnen, 35, was willing to take Henderson's spot in the ring for the title fight.
However, Jones declined to participate in the light heavyweight title fight with Sonnen as a substitute, leading to the cancellation of a UFC fight for the first time in 11 years. While White and Sonnen both criticized Jones' decision, the youngest world champion in UFC history explained his decision to fans.
"Dan Henderson got hurt, and the fight was canceled. I signed a contract a long time ago to fight Dan Henderson," Jones told MMAjunkie.com. "That's what I studied for, and that's what I prepared myself for. To take a fight with a different opponent in which I would basically have three days of training before traveling and then starting to cut weight I just thought would be the dumbest idea ever. I wouldn't have been properly prepared."
While Sonnen baited Jones by insinuating that the young champion was scared to face him in the UFC cage, the Christian mixed martial artist said he is willing to schedule a fight against his rival next month.
"Whether Chael Sonnen actually deserves a title shot really isn't my place to say," Jones said. "But if he wants to fight on Sept. 22, then I'm fine with that."
While the 25-year-old UFC fighter apologized for the fighters who could no longer participate in UFC 151 after his refusal to fight Sonnen, he made no apologies for his decision.
"I apologize to the people that lost money on tickets and travel and things like that," Jones said. "I don't apologize for my decision, but I do apologize for the way it affected people. I hope people can understand I was just trying to do the best thing for my career."
While Jones admitted that the criticism he received from UFC fans was hurtful, he also stood firm in his beliefs to do what is best for his family.
"The criticism does bother me, but I have to stand by my decision. I have to be the man that I am," Jones said. "With such large audiences comes great criticism. There will be a lot of scrutiny, but I've got to do what makes me happy and feels right to me."
Jones' next fight will be re-match against Lyoto Machida in UFC 152 on Sept. 22.