Jake Ellenberger woke up today to a queue of text messages from friends and family saying they were sorry to hear about what happened to him.
The last time he woke up to those kind of messages, his grandmother had passed away.
"So I'm thinking somebody died," Ellenberger today told MMAjunkie.com. "I'm thinking, 'Holy [expletive].'"
Nobody died, of course. But an event was canceled – UFC 151, which was scheduled to take place Sept. 1 before UFC President Dana White pulled the plug. Light heavyweight champ Jon Jones (16-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC), who was scheduled to fight Dan Henderson (29-8 MMA, 6-2 UFC) in the headliner, refused a short-notice fight with Chael Sonnen (29-8 MMA, 6-2 UFC) and left the promotion without options.
Ellenberger didn't have any options when it came to the decision to scratch the event, nor did any other fighters scheduled for UFC 151.
"In my opinion, I don't think you should be able to choose who you fight when you're the champ," he said. "Like most cases, you shouldn't have a choice. But if you're the champ, you're the best in the world, you have the belt for a reason, and I don't think you should choose who you fight."
Despite that feeling, Ellenberger (27-6 MMA, 6-2 UFC), whose co-main-event fight with Jay Hieron (23-5 MMA, 0-2 UFC) today was moved to UFC on FX 5 on Oct. 5, said he hadn't been in Jones' position and wasn't angry at him.
That wasn't the case with Jeff Hougland (15-7-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC), who was scheduled to fight Takeya Mizugaki (10-5 MMA, 1-1 UFC) on UFC 151's FX-televised preliminary card. He expressed anger that he was made to receive the bad news along with the rest of the world.
"I know I'm no Anderson Silva or big name in the company, but I do give my blood and sweat just like every other guy," he said. "I would have liked a phone call the day before. It just makes you feel like, man, you're just not appreciated. I'm still going to throw down. I'm still going to take years of my life and try to give the best entertainment that I can. I just thought they would call me."
On Jones: "Our lives are basically in his hands," Hougland said.
Dennis Hallman (51-14-2 MMA, 4-5 UFC), who was scheduled to fight Thiago Tavares (17-4-1 MMA, 7-4-1 UFC) on the event's pay-per-view main card, joked that he might lose his house.
"He is a selfish jerk," the veteran said of Jones. "Fighters, we have a feast-and-famine kind of thing. When you're expected to get paid [$40,000] and you don't ... it's kind of a slap in the face. Financially, it's really devastating. For me, I've already been postponed from Aug. 11 to September, so I had to bump my bills forward and my creditors. It's kind of devastating."
In Hougland's case, it was the second time in which family and friends had booked airline tickets and hotel rooms to watch him fight, only to see a change to the event. He just put in his last day of hard training and had already gone out of pocket to fund his camp.
"They're not going to want to follow me around," he said. "I'm not going to get any sponsor money. I don't think we get 'show' money because we didn't show."
During a media teleconference announcing UFC 151's cancellation, White said that main- and preliminary-card fighters would likely be rebooked for other events, but he couldn't give specifics.
It was hardly a silver lining, though, for those who needed the money, and those who very much wanted to compete.
"The cards are lined up," Hougland said. "Are they going to screw those guys over and move them? Probably not. They're just going to push us farther back or fit us in if somebody gets hurt. I don't want a short-notice fight. I wanted to fight Mizugaki."
An injury, of course, sparked the cancelation of UFC 151. Injuries have ravaged the promotion's schedule in 2012, and several high-profile headliners have been altered. In all cases, however, the show went on, and the fighters got paid.
Earlier this year, the UFC moved UFC 145 from March in Montreal to April in Atlanta. UFC 151, however, marks the first time in the promotion's history that an event has been outright canceled.
Ellenberger praised Sonnen for offering to fight Jones on short notice. Hallman said that spirit was badly needed at the top of the food chain.
"I'm kind of disappointed that the UFC decided to market guys that aren't real fighters or are just selfish," Hallman said. "[Jones] made a stupid decision. We're fighters, and we fight."
I feel so bad for the fighters who face some economic uncertainty because of this whole debacle. Losing/postponing a paycheck, losing sponsors, going through camps for nothing... The backlash from today is just terrible :/