The MMA community practically exploded earlier this week when UFC president Dana White announced Chael Sonnen would not only coach opposite Jon (Bones) Jones on the coming season of The Ultimate Fighter, but also challenge for the light-heavyweight championship in April.
Though some are no doubt looking forward to the eventual build-up and fight, many fans and fighters felt the sport received a black eye due to the NCAA Division I wrestler talking himself into a title opportunity.
Sonnen, after all, is known as well for his comments outside the cage as his aggressive fighting style inside it. And since he hasn’t even competed at 205 pounds in more than seven years, how else could he have jumped to the front of the line?
According to White, the former middleweight-title challenger’s gift of the gab wasn’t a factor. With filming on TUF to kick off on Oct. 29, a decision regarding the coaches needed to be made quickly. Since other fighters had turned down shots against Jones, and with Dan Henderson needing more time to heal from a partially-torn MCL, the UFC chose Sonnen.
“We got the word after Jon went out and got his elbow checked out that he couldn’t fight until April,” White said on a recent conference call.
“The top contenders that are pissed off Chael is getting a title shot are the same guys I called and turned down fighting Jon Jones.
“It’s not like we’re putting the title on hold and pulling Jones off to do The Ultimate Fighter with Chael. He’s hurt and can’t fight until April. He’ll do this fight and then we can continue to have the light-heavyweight division rolling and we’ll have an absolute No. 1 contender.”
Sonnen said he isn’t about to apologize to anyone for accepting the opportunity.
“As far as talking my way into it — what do I care about that?” Sonnen began. “So what if 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 had plenty of jobs that I wasn’t qualified for and I went in there and got promoted anyway.
“So at the end of it all, good for me. Chalk another one up for the bad guy.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Jones had little interest in facing Sonnen, even turning down a late-replacement bout that resulted in UFC 151 being cancelled. His decision yielded a torrent of criticism that he fears the 35-year-old veteran. Jones said now he can put the issue to rest.
“Just two months ago I had the whole world calling me a sissy and a wuss, saying that I’m afraid of Chael Sonnen,” Jones said. “Even my own fans in my hometown questioned why I couldn’t fight Chael Sonnen. A lot of people seem to have jumped on this train of Chael not deserving a title shot, but they jumped on that train a little too late. I’m over whether he deserves it or not and I’m getting more realistic that the fans really want it.
“Does it delegitimatize the belt? In some ways it does, but in some ways it doesn’t because it has nothing to do with the belt for me. Chael’s not getting close to the belt. This is more about putting him into irrelevance.”
Though Jones has beaten a who’s who of light-heavyweight fighters in his short career, Sonnen doesn’t feel the 25-year-old champion has been truly tested.
“The bottom line is: He hasn’t beaten anybody until he beats me,” Sonnen said. “Let’s go down the line. He beat (Ryan) Bader, he beat Shogun (Mauricio Rua), he beat — who’s that glorified Hollywood extra? — Rampage (Quinton Jackson), Vitor (Belfort). What’s next, he’s going to fight Scott Ferrozzo?
“Listen, he needs me. I’m the man and I’m the man because I say I’m the man. If anybody else wants the spot, come say it and come take it from me. I won’t turn any of these guys down. They all talk tough, but behind the scenes they don’t sign the contract. They blow up on their little Twitter accounts. Come do the heavy lifting, boys. I’ll be there.
“I’m going to walk out there and get in a fist fight. And above everything, I’m in a lot better shape than Jon or anybody else he’s fought. As much as I will admit Jon is better — skill-for-skill, he’s fantastic — Jon will admit I’m better than anybody he’s fought.”
“You being in good shape on (testosterone replacement therapy), or off TRT?” Jones interjected.
“On TRT, Jon,” Sonnen replied.
Following his first loss to Anderson Silva in 2010, Sonnen was suspended for one year after testing for elevated levels of testosterone due to TRT.
Jones admitted he feels the procedure is bad for the sport.
“I think it’s terrible,” Jones said. “I think it’s terrible if you consider yourself an athlete. I think TRT is perfect for Chael if he wasn’t competing in one of the toughest sports in the world.
“To be able to take a drug and super-enhance yourself back to where you were in your 20s is bull ... If I took a drug at (25 years old) to have the energy of a 20-year-old, it just wouldn’t be fair. Everyone would hate me if I did it. But Chael Sonnen gets to do it? I think it’s bull crap.”
SONNEN THINKS HE’S THE BETTER COACH
With roughly two weeks to assemble his coaching staff for the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, Jon (Bones) Jones has decided to dip into his past.
Since his current coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn host a large stable of fighters, the UFC light-heavyweight champion has reached out to his initial instructors.
“Mike Winkeljohn and Greg Jackson are really busy guys, so I might go with some of my very original trainers before I came to Jackson’s,” Jones said on a recent conference call.
“I’ve reached out to those guys to give them the opportunity and to give back to my original training staff. So when Greg and Wink come in, they get to meet the people who taught me ... the basics at the beginning.”
Jones will coach opposite Chael Sonnen on the popular reality show. Filming begins Oct. 29 and will last for six weeks. The program will then air in January and the two will fight in April.
When asked which trainers he will bring with him, Sonnen went into his trademark comedic mode.
“Chael Sonnen will be the coach,” he began. “Chael Sonnen is going to take half of these young men and teach them how to be fighters. Jon Jones is going to take half of these young men and teach them how to be selfish. The good news for Jon’s team is: I’m sure when it’s over, he’ll throw a hell of an after-party.”
ALVAREZ A HOT PROPERTY
Following his stunning first-round knockout victory over Patricky (Pitbull) Freire at Bellator 76 last Friday, Eddie Alvarez is officially the hottest free agent in MMA.
UFC president Dana White recently confirmed the promotion’s interest in signing Alvarez once Bellator’s exclusive negotiation period ends.
“congrats Bro!!! Let’s talk:)” White tweeted Alvarez following his win over Freire.
Though Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney hopes to strike a deal before Alvarez is legally able to field offers from other organizations, he admits that likely won’t happen.
“I talked to Ed post-fight and we’ve been talking pretty consistently — just trying to figure out what feasible deal we could do now that would allow us to move forward with Ed without having to get into that matching period,” Rebney told QMI Agency.
“But I also understand the fighter’s perception on those kinds of things. The reality is Ed’s been with us a long time, he’s been great for the organization. He is probably going to want to test the waters now. That makes a lot of sense — I understand that.
“We’re trying to create a package for him now that will forego him wanting to do that, but I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do that.”
Following his victory over Freire, Alvarez thanked his fans via Twitter. The message seems to hint that he intends to make the jump to the UFC.
“thank you for all the love and support throughout this journey, You all have been a huge motivation to get to the next level !! Best fans”
Alvarez has been with Bellator since its inception in 2009. He won the lightweight-championship by submitting Greg Loughran, Eric Reynolds and Toby Imada over an 11-week span. He lost the title to Michael Chandler at Bellator 58 last November in one of the best fights of 2011.
Alvarez holds victories over Shinya Aoki, Pat Curran, Roger Huerta, Josh Neer, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Joachim Hansen.
RAMPAGE WANTS TEIXEIRA
If Glover Teixeira is looking for a fight, Quinton (Rampage) Jackson is more than happy to give him one.
The two were originally scheduled to meet at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro this past weekend. When Jackson was forced off the card due to injury, Teixeira was paired up with Fabio Maldonado.
What occurred next can only be described as one of the worst beatdowns in UFC history, as Teixeira brutalized Maldonado for two rounds before the cage-side doctor intervened.
Following his violent TKO victory, Teixeira called out the former UFC light-heavyweight champion.
Jackson has since lobbied UFC president Dana White to make the bout a reality.
“Yo @danawhite set up that fight with Glover please!” Jackson tweeted. “Lets give him what he wants..fans I won’t let u down.”
White’s response was simple: “Sounds good bro.”
Teixeira is currently riding a 17-fight win streak, while Jackson has lost consecutive bouts to Jon Jones and Ryan Bader.
SHIELDS TESTS POSITIVE
Jake Shields’ recent victory over Ed Herman has been changed to a no contest due to the former Strikeforce middleweight champion testing positive for a banned substance.
A disciplinary complaint from the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies’ Boxing Commission confirms Shields’ has been suspended for six months and fined $5,675, but doesn’t disclose the substance.
“This was a mistake that I fully regret,” Shields said in a prepared statement. “I have shared this issue with my family and the UFC, and I have apologized to them, and now I also apologize to you, the fans. I promise this will never occur again in my fighting career.
“I accept the boxing commission’s decision for a six-month suspension, which will expire in February. I ask that you accept my apology. I will be back fighting soon, and hope that the fans of MMA will support me until that time.”