Let's get this out of the way first: I think having Jon Jones on TUF is a brilliant idea. The man is a proven ratings draw, seemingly able to single-handedly sell fights even if they put him in there with a mannequin. There's is frankly no reason why Jones vs. Belfort should've sold as much as it did.
Further, I think he's great for television. He's got a really divisive personality that seemingly everyone has a strong opinion on and, unlike Brock Lesnar, he's comfortable being in the spotlight. In fact, he seems to live for it...which again contributes to that divisive personality.
More than that though, putting Jon on TUF gives the light heavyweight division a break. Jones fights so regularly that he has chewed through the entire division at an absolutely unprecedented rate. It took GSP around 3 years to go from beating Josh Koscheck and beating Matt Hughes the second time for the interim title to fighting Dan Hardy and rematching Koscheck. But where GSP cleaned out the division in 3 years, Jones has done it in 2, fighting at a relentless pace.
There are definitely legit fighters and challenges left for Jones in his division, the problem is that none of them are truly credible challengers yet in the sense that they'd be a hard sell to the fans. Gustafsson, Teixeira, and Davis are all solid fighters, but they need time and Jones needs fights. TUF slows Jones down and gives those three men time to truly cement themselves.
The problem with this whole scheme is Chael Sonnen.
Don't get me wrong, I love Chael. I'm a huge fan. I've been wanting him on TUF for years for the sheer comic value and Jones needs to coach against SOMEONE. The thing is, that someone is right there: Dan Henderson. The man was promised a titleshot, he was booked for the titleshot, and now he's fighting Machida, a terrible stylistic match-up for him.
In my mind, this shows the UFC's laziness when it comes to TUF. I actually find Jones vs. Hendo to be a fantastic fight with huge marketability, if the UFC actually worked at creating a NARRATIVE. And the narrative is right there for the taking. You've got the arrogant, young 25 year old phenom taking on the gritty, 41 year old veteran who's seen it all. You've got the UFC champ who rose to prominence at the same time that Hendo reinvented his fighting style and achieved an inexplicable career renaissance in his 40s. How is that not a great story?
I mean, when Hendo won the UFC Middleweight Tournament, Jones was 11 years old. When he beat Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Renato Sobral, and Gilbert Yvel (all on the same fucking night!) en route to winning the RINGS openweight King of Kings Tournament, Jones was 13 and likely just starting high school.
Moreover, Hendo has shown, in his previous stint on TUF, that despite his soft-spokenness, he's able to get the fans behind him, particularly when paired with a cockier, more divisive personality.
Jones/Hendo has a great story that would play out great on TV. The problem is that creating a narrative takes work. It's far easier for the UFC to just put a camera on Sonnen and make an entire season out of seeing him troll Jones. Fuck creating a narrative, fuck emphasizing the human angle, fuck playing up history...that shit takes work. It's far easier to just put a camera on Sonnen and Jones and let them do their thing. And Dana can find excuses when the ratings don't match expectations.
So why not Jones/Hendo? Well, one reason is that ticket sales weren't great when their meeting was last booked, but I'd argue that's because they DIDN'T play up the narrative in marketing that event. Instead, it just felt like Jon Jones versus another warm body. It was all about Jones when, if the UFC opened its eyes a little, it'd see that in many ways, this is a modern day Randy Couture vs. Vitor Belfort: the young, seemingly unbeatable phenom versus the gritty, soft-spoken old wrestler, the difference being that in this case, Belfort has a Nike deal and mainstream appeal/recognition, Couture has a ton more fight experience, and the UFC has a FOX deal.
Let's also not forget that the rest of the Jones/Hendo card sucked giant monkey balls.
So yeah, this post is mostly me venting. Hendo deserves the shot and a TUF season of Jones/Hendo just makes so much sense that, naturally, the UFC just won't end up doing it. Why? Because Jones/Hendo can sell really well and be a really appealing match-up....if the UFC puts in some elbow-grease and creates a real story out of it, which a reality show would be the perfect basis for. And fuck that. Let's just put a camera on Sonnen. That's easier.