A few days ago I argued how great the next season of The Ultimate Fighter will be, and how if handled correctly the UFC can build to a must see showdown between champion Jon Jones and challenger Chael Sonnen. I still stand by that opinion, not because of any meaningful or long term benefit the show and the fight will have for MMA, but because it’s a solid bit of entertainment that can be easily enjoyed for what it is in isolation.
Dana White’s attempt to justify the choice in Chael Sonnen over other Light Heavyweights during the recent media call though left a lot to be desired, and he wilfully ignored some pretty obvious factors in what is still all connected to the UFC 151 disaster.
Dana White reasoned that because Chael Sonnen was the ‘only’ one to willingly step up on 8 days notice to take the fight with Jon Jones at the phantom UFC 151, and that the other fighters had turned it down, these others have forfeit themselves from future consideration for a TUF coaching spot and title fight with Jones as a result. They ‘had their chance’ and turned it down.
If we take Dana White’s words at face value, he comes across as a delusional fool. If we look at what he said with a healthy pinch of cynicism, his promoter spin is unusually weak and is completely devoid of logic.
Firstly, Chris Weidman threw his name into the hat to face Jones on short notice but was ignored. So technically, Sonnen wasn’t the only one to volunteer his services.
Secondly, if Sonnen was the only one to step up and thus be considered for a future opportunity against Jones, that doesn’t explain why Vitor Belfort got the nod at UFC 152 in his stead. The reasoning at that time was Jones didn’t think Sonnen should be able to talk his way into a title fight, and wouldn’t have had enough time to prepare for him originally. Jones only took the bout with Belfort because of the extra time to prepare for a switch in opponent, and because of a seemingly mutual respect between the two because they share similar morals and values. Now though, it seems Jones has no issue with Sonnen talking his way into a title fight, Jones will have time to prepare for Sonnen, and Sonnen should be a relatively easy fight stylistically for Jones after returning from his arm injury.
Thirdly, Sonnen, Belfort and Weidman take on little long term risk in a fight with Jones on short notice. These men compete at Middleweight and a loss to perhaps the most dominant Light Heavyweight since a prime Chuck Liddell can easily be dismissed because of the size and strength difference. If they win they make a massive name for themselves, if they lose, so what? In the case of Belfort and Weidman it’s back down to Middleweight where it’s ‘business as usual’.
In the case of Sonnen where he likely won’t ever get a shot at the Middleweight title again as long as Anderson Silva remains the champion, and Sonnen is possibly in the process of winding down his career over the next few years given his age as an athlete, stepping up against Jones on short notice probably had the same attraction to him as Stephan Bonnar’s attraction to fight Anderson Silva at UFC 153.
Other, actual Light Heavyweights who have worked their way into title contention are looking at the bigger picture when it comes to a fight with Jones. They won’t take a fight on 8 days notice with him because they want to stand the best chance of beating him and they’re not going to risk putting in a bad showing when they might not get another crack at the whip. In the case of Lyoto Machida in particular, he’s lost once already to Jones and may only have one more shot while Jones is champion, and he’s not going to squander that chance for a fight he can’t fully prepare for.
These other Light Heavyweights are looking at wresting the title off of Jones and to create their own legacy, where as Chael Sonnen in all likeliness is just looking for a paycheck. Dana White rewarding Sonnen for doing so, while essentially saying he’s punishing the others for taking their careers seriously, is both nonsensical and absurd.
Having a throwaway fight culminating at the end of what will hopefully be a wildly entertaining 12 weeks of television is one thing, and it may have served the UFC better if Dana White admitted this was all it was. Attempting to justify the choice by burying fighters who are actually taking their career’s seriously, instead of gambling ‘all in’ with zero strategy just to make a quick buck, is why there’s been a fan and media backlash, and why the UFC Light Heavyweight title becomes devalued as a result.
All this chicanery and frankly drivel from Dana White only serves to undermine a company that prides itself on being ‘As Real As It Gets’.
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