ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — ‘TUF’ Brings Them Together
Jon “Bones” Jones says he can’t wait to make Chael Sonnen “irrelevant” again.
For now, it’s Sonnen’s relevance — or at least his entertaining ability to convince people he’s relevant in the mixed-martial arts world — combined with Jones’ championship résumé that the UFC is hoping drums up enough hype to save the sports reality TV program “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Sonnen and Jones, who lives and trains in Albuquerque, have been chosen as the coaches of two 16-member teams for the coming Season 17 of “TUF,” the tournament-style reality show that airs on the cable network FX. The show culminates with a title fight in April between the two, despite Sonnen not being the sports No. 1 contender for Jones’ light heavyweight belt.
“So what, I talked my way into it,” Sonnen said, responding to a question referencing numerous UFC fighters’ criticisms of the fight. “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 gotten plenty of jobs I wasn’t qualified for that I went in and got promoted anyway. … He needs me. The bottom line is he hasn’t beat anybody until he beats me.”
Jones complimented Sonnen on being the type of person who gets whatever he wants — “well, except for championships.”
Sonnen claimed to be in the best shape of anyone Jones has fought. The champion fired back with a shot at a past Sonnen suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs as part of his testosterone replacement therapy.
“Are we talking about being in shape on TRT or off TRT?” Jones asked.
Sonnen told reporters he wouldn’t comment about the subject in what was easily the only time he didn’t have something to say during Wednesday’s conference call.
Jones drew harsh criticism in August when he turned down a fight with Sonnen on short notice. Jones’ original UFC 151 opponent Dan Henderson was injured, leading UFC President Dana White to cancel the entire event.
Both fans and White ripped Jones’ decision not to take the replacement fight, but he and his coaches at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink Mixed Martial Arts gym have maintained it would have been unwise for the champion to take on a new opponent with such short notice.
Jones said at the time fighting Sonnen would “delegitimize” the belt.
“The only thing that delegitimizes the title is the brat holding it,” Sonnen said Wednesday.
So why is Jones, who is recovering from an elbow injury suffered in a September win over Vitor Belfort in UFC 153, now content with fighting Sonnen?
“It really had to do with just getting over this chapter of my career,” Jones said. “The UFC 151 cancellation was, you know, a tough moment in my career, and I think beating Chael Sonnen … then after that beating Dan Henderson would help me have closure to that whole situation … putting closure to the Chael Sonnen invasion of my career.”
White, meanwhile, said “it made sense” to have Jones be a coach in “The Ultimate Fighter” while rehabilitating from the elbow injury and have a fight waiting at the end of that rehab in April with Sonnen.
White also took exception to UFC fighters taking to social media on Wednesday criticizing Sonnen getting the title fight.
“Everyone of these guys that are bitching about a title shot now were offered the fight (with Jones for UFC 151) and turned it down,” White said. “They refused to fight Jon Jones. Now they’re bummed out because Chael stepped up on eight days’ notice and he’s going to coach ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and fight him.”
The heated conference call even featured some TV trash talk from FX Vice President Chuck Saftler, who said he expects the show’s ratings with Jones and Sonnen to be “epic” and that “Spike should watch their ass,” referring to the cable channel that used to air “TUF” and plans to start a new reality show with a similar MMA format.
The show begins filming Oct. 29 in Las Vegas, Nev., and will begin airing in January, although a specific day of the week for the show has not yet been selected.
Jones and Sonnen will fight April 27. A site for their fight has not been chosen.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal