When UFC President Dana White announced that the promotion would be shelving the entire UFC 151 card, blame was directed heavily toward light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Yet, in reality, the reasons behind the cancellation go far beyond the 25-year-old’s decision to turn down a fight.

Certainly the knee injury suffered by No. 1 contender Dan Henderson is also a major culprit. However, you can’t blame the former Strikeforce and Pride champion for the entire sequence of events either.

The fact of the matter is that the UFC has stretched itself too thin.

Following UFC 146 in May, the promotion has lost fight after fight due to injury and has struggled to salvage fight cards throughout the summer. Unfortunately for the entire MMA community, that came to a head just nine days before the planned Sept. 1 event in Las Vegas.

The biggest cause of the surprising decision may very well be one of the most celebrated events in the young sport’s history, the network television deal with Fox.

How can added exposure and a lucrative, long-term deal do harm instead of good? How about by adding even more events to the promotion’s already busy schedule? Not only did the partnership with Fox bring four fight cards to free TV, but it also added six fight cards each to Fox-affiliated cable stations FX and Fuel TV.

Couple that with the already planned 16 pay-per-view events in 2012—the same amount as 2010 and 2011—and the promotion put a heavy strain on itself and its roster of fighters with over 30 scheduled events. Even after adding the 125-pound flyweight division earlier in the year, the volume of events has affected the UFC’s ability to put its big-name fighters on the same cards. If one of them gets hurt, the UFC has been forced to scramble for replacements—with mixed results.

Lost in the UFC 151 news is the fact that the UFC already ran across this problem earlier in the year. UFC 145—which ironically also featured Jones as the headliner—was originally slated for Montreal in early April, but was moved to Atlanta after the proposed date prevented the type of star power needed for the event.

While devoted fans may be content to watch the likes of Jay Hieron and Jake Ellenberger or Che Mills and Rory MacDonald in co-main events, the casual audience is still largely concerned only with the main event. If there’s no fallback plan or enough depth on the cards when main events dissolve, these situations will be more and more frequent in the future.

With the loss of the Montreal event and the cancelled UFC 151, the promotion is slated to finish 2012 with only 13 pay-per-view events. Looking forward to 2013, the promotion’s schedule may need to reflect a similar number if the UFC wants to continue its ambitious goals of bringing the sport to the mainstream without watering down the product.

Photo: UFC President Dana White (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)