TUALATIN, OR - JUNE 26: Chael Sonnen conducts a workout while his coaches Scott McQuary and Clayton Hires watch at the Team Quest gym on June 26, 2012 in Tualatin, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
With Chael Sonnen announcing his return to light heavyweight last week to face Forrest Griffin at UFC 155 in Las Vegas, the prevailing theory was that Sonnen would be deemed the potential next challenger for current champion Jon Jones. The constant trash-talk on Twitter also seemed to suggest that Sonnen could be next in line with a win over Griffin (assuming Jon Jones defeated both Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida). Earlier this morning on the Dave & Mahoney show on X107.5 FM in Las Vegas, White put an end to that talk when asked by listeners on the show's Facebook page, saying Sonnen will need more than just a single win to make his way towards a title shot.
"He's a long way away," White said. "He's not coming off the [Anderson] Silva fight and just talking his way into a 205-pound world title shot. He's going to have to beat a couple of the best in the world. If he beats Forrest Griffin, we'll shoot him right into the top 5, let him fight some of those guys there and we'll see what happens."
From a business standpoint I definitely see Sonnen vs. Jones as one of the last few big-selling fights for Jones at light heavyweight, but from the sake of rankings, logic, and "what feels right", I have to side with Dana White here. Sonnen's success in the WEC and UFC is exclusive to middleweight, and he's essentially been a journeyman at 205. It's very far-fetched to think he is suddenly one of the best LHWs in the world with no wins of note at that weight class.
While Sonnen is rightly the heavy favorite against Forrest Griffin, it's primarily because of how bad Griffin has looked in 3 of his last 4 fights, and not necessarily Chael's middleweight success instantly translating into reviving his LHW career. There's no guarantee that even if he beats Griffin that he would handle Phil Davis, Alexander Gustafsson, Lyoto Machida, or even Glover Teixeira. While Jones vs. Sonnen is fun in theory we don't know if A.) Jones will still be champion come 2013 and B.) If Sonnen is legitimately one of the best LHWs.