Kevin C. Cox
Both mainstream media and MMA media are buzzing with the UFC's announcement of Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen. Here, we round-up some of those comments from the likes of Sports Illustrated and ESPN.
Last week's bombshell news of Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen has been all the talk in the MMA world lately. Many fighters have already spoken up about the issue, generally expressing their frustration over Sonnen cutting to the head of the line and earning a Light Heavyweight title shot based on his ability to sell a fight, not any accomplishments at 205.
Now, media outside of just the normal MMA circles is also picking up on the story, and their opinion on it is not complimentary to the UFC.
First up, Sports Illustrated's Jeff Wagenheim offered his rather scathing take on the situation, calling for Jon Jones to be stripped of the belt since Jones vs. Sonnen should, under no circumstances, be considered a UFC title fight:
Considering that the Jones-Sonnen bout will be an outgrowth of the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, the FX reality show on which the two fighters will serve as coaches, maybe we can compromise and simply call Jones' title the TV Championship. Isn't that a title right out of some old professional wrestling promotion? Then again, the rasslin' folks might take it as an insult to be lumped in with something as fake as this UFC "championship" nonsense.
Ouch. Wagenheim does go on to note that, in his opinion, this is not the fault of either Sonnen or Dana White, as they are just making the most of a lousy situation. And while I agree with a lot of his points, that one makes little sense. This absolutely is the fault of Dana White. As ESPN's Josh Gross points out, there were plenty of other options for Jones's next opponent:
This wasn't short notice. This wasn't a situation where an event had to be saved on a week's notice. It's not happening until the same weekend as the 2013 NFL draft, OK? There was time, and space, to put together a serious championship fight with Jones.
Dan Henderson deserved this shot and could have done it by April. Maybe even Mauricio Rua or Alexander Gustafsson after their fight in December. Or Glover Teixeira fights one more time in 2013 and really gets on the radar. Who knows? They're all better fight options than Sonnen, who left light heavyweight after losing his first UFC bout at that weight. He's literally the least-deserving fighter to get a title shot at 205.
Finally, with a slightly different take, here's MMA Fighting's MMA Roundtable on the issue. Their opinion: this isn't really much of a bad thing at all and will blow over with little repercussion.
Can you name another fighter who was granted a title shot at a higher weight class after losing two title fights at his lower weight class? Give up? The answer is Randy Couture, who had gone five years without a heavyweight fight and had been retired a full year when he defeated Tim Sylvia for the title at UFC 68. Not only did the sky not fall that evening, the bout is remembered as one of the sport's most magical moments.
If you're going to pontificate righteous indignation over the notion MMA a pure sport and insist a fighter has to work his way through the division to earn a title shot, then you have to show consistency in your position. You can't have it both ways based one whether you personally like one fight and not another. Either someone earned their title shot in their division or they didn't.
Anyway, the Guardians of Mixed Martial Arts Championship Sanctity howled their way through the first Tito Ortiz-Ken Shamrock fight, bleated their way through middleweight and welterweight title shots being granted to the winners of "The Ultimate Fighter 4," and brayed their way through Brock Lesnar getting a title shot in his fourth pro fight.
The UFC got through those fights just fine and will do the same here.
On the one hand, I agree with the general idea here - this one fight won't tank the UFC by any means. But on the other hand, when you look at it in a larger context, it's another bad decision in a year of really bad decisions on the part of Dana and company. As those bad decisions stack up, eventually, they'll catch up with the UFC in the form of decreased fan interest and even more low PPV rates.
Will Jones vs. Sonnen single-handedly cause that? Of course not. But will it help fix the situation? Like Gross and Wagenheim, I'm skeptical.