The upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter is sure to promise fireworks with Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones taking on the coaching roles. Verbal jabs started between the two on the UFC’s media call Wednesday afternoon. UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones stepped up the smack talk on his end calling out Chael on his TRT use, inability to earn a championship and more. While Sonnen had no snappy retorts for Jones’ TRT comments, he did promise to be Jones’ toughest opponent to date.
In the past 24 hours, many have questioned the UFC’s decision to give Chael a title shot since he’s lost back-to-back champion fights in the middleweight division against Anderson Silva. On today’s call, UFC President Dana White made it clear to those who are now complaining that they’ve been skipped over, stating that they had their chance to step up and take on Jones and none of them answered the call.
Jones said that he’s accepted the Sonnen fight to “have closure to the Chael Sonnen invasion in his career” and also to put the UFC 151 cancellation behind him once and for all. The champ also explained that he previously turned down the UFC 151 main event against Chael because of the short preparation time. With a full camp and proper time to train for Sonnen, Jones promised that Sonnen won’t get close to the 205 belt.
“I absolutely know I can beat Chael and I’m really confident going into this fight – based on my skill set, youth, versatility and I’m a championship fighter. I don’t think Chael’s really a guy who knows how to win championships. With that being said, I believe in every way shape and form that I’ll beat Chael,” Jones said.
Part of the reason UFC President Dana White said Chael did get this opportunity isn’t just because he stepped up to the plate to fight Jones when no one else did, but also because Jones’ right arm injury was an issue in scheduling fights for him. Jones has found that he does have small tears in his elbow and being in town while coaching The Ultimate Fighter gives him time to rehab in Vegas with UFC doctors prior to fighting Sonnen in April.
“Basically we got the word after Jon went out and got his elbow checked out that he was out and he couldn’t fight til April. So it made sense for him to do the Ultimate Fighter. Why back up? Machida can fight. Dan Henderson can fight. Gustafsson and Shogun are gonna fight in December and so everything will keep right on moving,” White said. “Obviously Chael wants this fight, has been asking for this fight, fans wanted this fight. yea there’s some people now saying ‘Oh this is ridiculous’ or whatever…Jon said ‘Listen I’m gonna be there, I can’t fight til April, I’d like to go in there and whup Chael’s ass and then I’ll defend the belt against whoever you want me to defend the belt against’. So it made sense,” White said of his decision.
Chuck Saftler from FX also confirmed that The Ultimate Fighter will move from Friday night to a new weekday that will be announced in the next month or so. Though no new day was clarified, Chuck hinted that “Spike should watch their ass.” With the drop in ratings Saftler said they are looking forward to the Jones-Sonnen season “have big expectations for the ratings”. He added that they’ll be watching what Spike does closely indicating that Bellator may attempt to put on a reality show similar to The Ultimate Fighter in direct competition with the UFC flagship reality series.
Sonnen backed up the show saying that the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter is by far one of the most difficult competitions to win on TV. “This show is the single biggest and toughest tournament that we have in this sport. This isn’t a four-man tournament that gets spread over the course of a year. This is a 32-man tournament that will take place over five-and-a-half weeks and will be aired over 10 of the most successful ratings weeks that FX has ever seen. This is a tournament that is tougher than the Olympic games, it’s tougher than the NFL playoffs, it’s tougher than any tournament in sports and that storyline constantly gets missed.” Chael added that the tournament is so tough that world class fighters like Josh Koscheck, Gray Maynard, Stephan Bonnar and Chris Leben couldn’t even win it.
As far as what he thinks about guys like Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson posting tweets insinuating that Chael leap-frogged them in the light heavyweight division to get a title shot, Chael said they all had their chance to fight Jones and they passed on it. “I don’t turn down fights and I never get hurt. I will fight anybody at anytime. These guys can go say all these things they want, but not one of them has stepped up,” Chael stated. “And as far as talking my way into it, what do I care about that? So what I talked my way into it. I wanted it and I got it. I talked a cat out of a tree earlier today. I’ll do whatever I want. I’ve got plenty of jobs that I wasn’t qualified for and I went in and I got promoted anyway…At the end of it all…good for me. And chock one more up for the bad guy.”
Surprisingly, Chael went against type crediting Jones for his wrestling skill, being “the best fighter he’s ever seen” and said he is “fantastic”. But then went on record saying Jones hasn’t beaten anyone until he beats him. He even teased that Jones fought a glorified, Hollywood extra in Rampage Jackson. Then he continued that he will teach the young contestants on TUF what MMA is while Jones will throw his guys a party. He later added that the 205 division has been a revolving door since Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture left.
Jones countered Chael’s verbal onslaught stating that Chael “will never get close to the belt. Jones added that fighting and beating Chael is his “way of putting [Chael] into irrelevance.” Additionally, Jones made sure to get his hooks into Chael throwing his TRT usage at him.
“I think it’s terrible. I think it’s especially terrible if you’re going to consider yourself an athlete. I mean TRT would be perfect for Chael Sonnen if he wasn’t competiting one of the toughest sports in the world. I think Chael Sonnen made tons of money when he was a young guy, now he’s an older guy and now just to be able to take a drug and super-enhance yourself back to where you were in your 20’s is bull.”
Chael responded with “no comment” on the topic.
As for where the April 27th fight between Sonnen and Jones could happen, White indicated that New Jersey is the possible location. The season finale will happen in Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Hotel. White also updated that Forrest Griffin will remain on the co-main event on UFC 155’s December 29th card, since Chael was removed from that fight. A replacement is in the works though White did not disclose who the fighter is.