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Dana White, Jon Jones ready to move past UFC 151 fallout

Meeting with White comes before fight with Vitor Belfort for Jones

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Justin M. Bowen

Jon Jones holds his hand to his head after defeating Ryan Bader in their light heavyweight bout at UFC 126 Saturday, February 5, 2011 at Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Days before Jon Jones and Vitor Belfort stare at each other from across the octagon in the main event of UFC 152, the 24-year-old champion will face a more intense encounter.

Jones will meet with UFC President Dana White for the first time since the cancellation of UFC 151. The relationship between boss and prized employee deteriorated after Jones refused to accept a last-minute fight against Chael Sonnen three weeks ago.

“I don’t take anything back from what I said,” White said on a conference call Tuesday. “He and I will get into a room in Toronto and talk face to face.”

White went on a tirade insulting Jones when he announced UFC 151 was off, questioning the young star’s heart and mocking his reputation as being selfish and fake among other things. Jones countered by saying it wasn’t his fault the whole event was canceled.

He suggested White should have booked a more complete card, so all wasn’t lost when original opponent Dan Henderson tore his MCL.

Neither Jones nor White backed down from previous comments while promoting UFC 152, which takes place Sept. 22 at Air Canada Centre, but both expressed a desire to leave the situation in the past.

“I’m ready for me and Dana to be on the same team,” Jones said. “It could get us very far. Me, as an individual athlete, and the UFC having a mainstream athlete and a guy who’s trying to break down the walls in mainstream America. I can’t do that if I’m having it out with the UFC. I’m totally over it. I’m ready to talk with Dana White and move on.”

Although White claimed the UFC 151 debacle made Jones the most difficult fighter he’s ever had to deal with, he said Tuesday the champion “wasn’t a bad guy.”

Perhaps White has gotten more accustomed to the unfortunate news of fighters declining matchups. It happened twice more in trying to find Jones an opponent for the promotion’s third trip to Toronto.

After announcing Jones would meet top light heavyweight contender Lyoto Machida at UFC 152, the Brazilian turned down the opportunity. Machida cited a month as insufficient time to train for the rematch with arguably the world’s best fighter.

Next in line was another former Jones victim, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, who also passed on the chance to regain the 205-pound division’s championship belt.

“People talk a lot of (expletive), but nobody is too excited to jump up and fight Jon Jones right now,” White said. “Guys were out there saying, ‘I want the title shot next, I want the title shot next.’ But when it came time for them to get the title shot, they turned it down.”

A middleweight — albeit one that captured the UFC light heavyweight championship a decade ago and a heavyweight tournament title 15 years ago — emerged as the unlikely challenger to Jones.

The 35-year-old Belfort sent text messages to both White and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta begging for a chance at Jones. Belfort never before imagined he’d fight Jones, whom he crowned the best fighter in the world, but wanted to step up when he realized the UFC was scrambling for an opponent.

“People turned down fights,” Belfort said. “I cannot understand and I cannot see that. I love challenge. This is another challenge in my life to go for and move forward.”

White will admit Jones vs. Belfort isn’t the ideal fight. But he’ll just as quickly defend Belfort’s status as a legitimate threat to Jones’ belt.

Asked for his message to fans complaining about the fight, White raised his voice and responded, “don’t buy it.” Jones knows that type of bluntness all too well.

“I’m actually getting more and more excited to talk to Dana and get it behind us,” Jones said. “The UFC is an awesome brand and in this situation, I had to stand up for myself and do what was right. But at the same time, me holding a personal beef against Dana gets me nowhere. He’s still my boss at the end of the day and has every right to express how he feels.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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