Dana White: “All The Guys That Are Pissed Off and Complaining About Chael Are the Guys I Called to Fight Jon Jones (As a Last Minute Replacement for UFC 151)
By Jesse Heitz
At 3pm on October 17, the UFC hosted a conference call regarding the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter, which featured: Dana White, Chael Sonnen, Jon “Bones” Jones, and FX Network executive vice president Chuck Saftler.
The conference call, undoubtedly a lively one, at times covered ground seemingly of little consequence to The Ultimate Fighter, as a horde of undeniably interested reporters clamored during the questions and answers portion. However, the call was to officially announce that Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones would be the coaches for the upcoming season. And so the fireworks began.
UFC President, Dana White, when asked why he chose Sonnen and Jones as coaches for The Ultimate Fighter, offered several explanations, one delivered calmly, and the other delivered in a significantly more pointed fashion. He first stated that the elbow injury sustained by Jones in his recent UFC 152 fight with Vitor Belfort, will keep him out of the Octagon until April. He went further by stating that the bulk of the UFC’s light heavyweight contenders are already booked to fight before April, and that Henderson’s health is still a mystery, so for scheduling purposes, Chael Sonnen was a perfect fit. White state simply that, “we have to make decisions around here; we have to pull the trigger”. After the severity of Jones’ injury was determined, the UFC had quickly put a plan together that allowed the entire weight class to move forward.
When responding to a slew of criticism from fighters and fans alike that Sonnen had “talked his way into a title shot”, White stated that, “we’re not clogging up the light heavyweight division for a guy that wasn’t a contender…all the guys that are pissed off and complaining about Chael are the guys I called to fight Jon Jones [as a late replacement for UFC 151],…but nobody wanted to fight him, Chael stepped up with 8 days notice.” One reporter asked about the possibility of reciprocity being the motivating factor behind Chael receiving the coaching spot on TUF, a question Dana White quickly squashed.
When Sonnen himself was asked whether or not his ability to talk led to the acquirement of a light heavyweight title shot, even though he hadn’t fought at such a weight class in half a decade, he responded in typical Sonnen fashion, stating, “Who cares? I wanted it, I got it…Good for me, chalk one up for the bad guy.” In response to the words of other disgruntled fighters, he commented, “I’ve called every one of those bastards out; I’ll slap every one of them around, including the karate kid”. He went on to add, “Nobody called me out, I didn’t duck fights, I’ll fight any of them.
Sonnen quickly pounced on the opportunity to sell tickets and pay-per-view buys when he dug his claws into several questions regarding the threat posed by Jon Jones. Sonnen briefly spoke highly of his upcoming opponent when he said that Jones is “the best fighter I’ve seen”, but then quickly qualified his statement by saying that fellow Team Quest alumnus Randy Couture was in fact the best fighter he’s ever seen.
Sonnen quickly attacked the level of competition that Jones has faced in his young career, stating that he’s beaten men like “that glorified Hollywood extra, Rampage, what’s next Scott Ferrozzo?” Sonnen finished by stating frankly that Jones “hasn’t beat anyone until he’s beat me”. Capping off Sonnen’s edgy diatribe regarding Jones’ accomplishments, he stated that, “when Couture and Liddell left, that division became a joke”.
Jones on the other hand, was more reserved in his comments even though he stated that, “I know I can absolutely beat Chael, I’m very confident…I don’t think that Chael is a guy that can win a championship fight.” As the call progressed, Jones’ words became a little sharper when Jones said, “I respect some things about him, he tries to get championships, he’s not much of a championship level athlete…Chael is a man of very little class.”
When fielding questions about why he accepted the challenge of Sonnen for the TUF finale in April and declined the same matchup for UFC 151, Jon Jones stated that the decision not to fight Chael had “nothing to do with thinking he could not beat Chael, but was about responsibly managing” his career. When asked if money was the culprit behind his change of heart, Jones flatly stated that it had “nothing to do with money”, that he just wanted to get “over with this chapter of his career”.
Perhaps the most entertaining exchange between the two combatants occurred when Jones was asked if Chael challenging for the light heavyweight championship delegitimized the title. Jones responded rather nonchalantly by saying, “In some ways yes, in some ways no”. Jones quickly followed up by saying, “Chael’s not getting anywhere close to the belt, this [his possible loss] puts him into irrelevance”. Sonnen immediately fired back, stating, “The only thing that delegitimizes the title is the brat holding it.”
With regards to coaching a young group of fighters, Sonnen dismissed any real value in coaching stated that, “Chael Sonnen is going to take half of these men and teach them how to be fighters, Jon Jones is going to take half and teach them to be selfish.” Jones on the other hand took the high road, stating that he intends to teach his fighters that they need to “be extremely passionate” and that they need to “have the work ethic to backup that passion”.
In terms of show specifics, The Ultimate Fighter on FX is to begin filming on October 29th, and set to premier on an unspecified January date. The show will be moved from Friday nights to an undisclosed weeknight. The finale is set to be held at the Hard Rock Atlantic City.
As per the request of Chael Sonnen, who insisted that the media grant his request to remind the public that “This show is the single biggest and toughest tournament in the sport. Thirty-two fights over five-and-a-half weeks, it’s tougher than the Olympics or the NFL playoffs”.
In the half-hour long conference call, the two fighters took a plethora of shots at one another critiquing the others’: skill sets, level of competition, medical history, all of which ensures that these two premier fighters will put on quite a show leading up to their featured bout in April. Whether this season of TUF produces a crop of world champions as Sonnen has predicted is anybody’s guess, but this could very well be the most exciting season to date, although I don’t know if Spike TV will have to “watch their ass” as Saftler suggested.