Jon Jones will finally face Rashad Evans at UFC 145, but if he wins, he may just give the UFC some headaches on what to do with him next.
After Evans, what is there left for him at light heavyweight?
Jones has already torn through most of the division and the fight with Evans seems like the ultimate matchup. It is the fight that most fans have invested time and energy into and are ready to see take place. Much like the fight between Rashad Evans and Quinton Jackson, fans are ready to see the bad blood between these two fighters explode.
But if Jones does walk through Evans like he has his other opponents, what is the company going to do with him? He is still too young to move to heavyweight and hasn't built the body mass he would need to survive.
At the same time, he doesn't really have much in the way of challengers for his weight class. An argument could be made for Dan Henderson, but that is about it. Even then it would feel like a backward step, not because of the level of competition, but because there would b less of an emotional investment.
Dan Henderson is a great fighter, but he isn't known for bringing drama outside the cage. In a sport like MMA that focuses so much on pay-per-view buys, both are important. It is a large part of why Henderson isn't getting a title shot at light heavyweight or middleweight.
He may have had fight of the year in 2011, but he isn't as interesting an opponent as Rashad Evans or Chael Sonnen—at least not from a media perspective.
So even if Jones wins against Evans, he is still faced with a problem because he has to face either taking opponents that casual fans won't be as interested in watching or moving up in weight before he should.
Jones could wait until he gains a plethora of new challengers, though at this point in his career, that would possibly damage his growth and make him lose out on a large amount of revenue.
More importantly for the UFC, it would mean that they would lose a chance to make money off of one of their most profitable fighters. Jones has reached star status and there isn't much more he can do to gain greater relevance in pop culture. He is a rare mixture of talent and charisma that comes around only once in a long while.
But the UFC won't have any way to capitalize on his talents if he beats Evans—especially with such ease. He will evolve to a level, at least in most fans' minds, where no one can challenge him.
Without a drastic change in weight or taking some time off, that notion won't change.
People might stop buying pay-per-views because the money could go elsewhere and "Jones is just going to win anyway." It might be a foolish line of thought, but one that plenty of folks have. Most hardcore fans know that no fighter is indestructible, but casual fans are impacted by marketing.
The same way that fans perceived Mike Tyson or view Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao today is the same way that Jones could be viewed shortly. Not as a fighter with flaws, but as a dominant force that can't lose.
In an economy where money is tight, casual fans, the larger part of the UFC's market share, might just spend their money elsewhere.
And that is the most important thing. Not the fights or the outcomes, but the bottom dollar. That is harsh, though reality is that unless the UFC turns a profit they have to shut their doors.
Even though the company isn't in any trouble, that doesn't mean that Jones doesn't present a marketing problem if he is victorious.
The UFC may not have a favorite when it comes to two of their fighters squaring off, but it is in the company's best interest to have Jones become human.
Otherwise, they will have a veritable Superman on their hands and a harder time convincing people that he is otherwise.
Article by BleacherReport