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Chael Sonnen talks UFC's 'high' price tag, Jon Jones' future & Submission Underground

Retired UFC middleweight superstar, Chael Sonnen talks with the Three Amigos about his new grappling promotion, the UFC sale and Jon Jones' future.

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Esther Lin

Tomorrow, Chael Sonnen will hold his first Submission Underground grappling event in Portland, Oregon. The event borrows BJJ legend, Eddie Bravo's ruleset from his Eddie Bravo Invitational (EBI) grappling promotion, but with a unique twist; the matches take place in a cage instead of on a grappling mat to ensure the safety of the competitors.

Matches will last just eight minutes before heading into overtime. Once the match goes into overtime, the determination of the winner will need to meet the following criteria, according to a press release from the promotion:

"The winner of a coin flip can elect to start the overtime period attacking from the back or from the "spiderweb" (arm bar) position. If one competitor scores a submission and his opponent does not, he is declared the winner. But if both competitors escape from submission attempts, the match moves to the next overtime round. After three overtime rounds, the competitor who escaped the quickest is declared the winner."

The announcing duties were supposed to have been headed up by the "Voice of the Octagon," Bruce buffer, however, he injured himself during International Fight week, so Sonnen plans to handle the announcing himself. Sherdog's T.J. De Santis will be calling the play-by-play action and Nate Quarry will be assuming color commentary duties.

In an interview with the Three Amigos Podcast earlier this week, Chael discussed the event, and fielded questions about Jon Jones' future and the UFC sale. Here's what he had to say:

Jon Jones' Future

I think there's going to be a strong argument that Jones had a banned substance through an accident, and intent does matter. Will it matter to the commission? No. He's gonna sit for two years. Will it matter to the rest of us? Yeah, absolutely.

I think maybe he did take something, but inadvertently. The other problem for Jones--and this was the same hurricane that I went through--is that a test came back that had a positive on it, and the secret that I was keeping, that no one else knew, was that it wasn't the last test. It was just the only test that was back. What I knew was that there was another one out there, and I didn't know what it was gonna show. I suspect that this is the spot Jones is in, as well.

Now, that doesn't mean another shoe is gonna drop. It doesn't mean that at all. It just means that there's a potential for it. And either there's another test, or two, or three that have yet to come back, or USADA has got some explaining to do, because if the last time they tested Jon Jones was June 16th when he's got a past failure going into the biggest fight in history, that's not very thorough.

UFC Sale

Whatever their vision is, I'm curious to see. From where I'm sitting, the UFC is a very close-to-finished product. They're in all 50 states, they're in five of the seven continents, they're worldwide and having 53 shows a year when there's only 52 weeks in the year. They've got their own network, they're in gaming magazines...I mean, you go through it, and you see it's a multi-platform media company that happens to put on fights.

They've become a media empire I'm not certain where they go, but I'm very curious to find out. As far as the old owners go, good for them. They created something so big that somebody wanted to buy it. That's really the dream when you set out in any business. You hope to do such a good job that you can sell it someday, and that's what they did.

I would trust that these new owners are very smart and that they've looked at the numbers, but to answer in a word, yes, I thought that was a high price.-Chael Sonnen
Was the UFC's $4.2B price tag high?

It's tough to say. It surprised me. I thought that was a very high price. Nobody knows what earnings are. You would generally value a company at two-and-a-half-times earnings, but because this is such a unique business, you could move that a little bit and talk banks into it, slightly, but you're not gonna talk them into four-times earnings, and definitely not five-times.

The bottom line is that nobody knows what they're earning. They are not a publicly traded company. They are private, and nobody knows the real numbers. Nobody knows what the TV numbers are. They know what FOX is, because FOX is public and they can check that, but they don't know what Globo is and they don't have any idea what subscribers are paying.

They can reveal live gate sales, but the UFC is not in the live gate business, anyway. They have no idea what the sponsorships are bringing in and they have no idea about the expenses. You only read what gets disclosed to the commissions. We just simply don't know.

I would trust that these new owners are very smart and that they've looked at the numbers, but to answer in a word, yes, I thought that was a high price.

Submission Underground

July 17th, this coming Sunday, at, we're gonna be putting on one of the premiere grappling events to ever go down. There's some great matches, I mean the card is loaded. It doesn't get much bigger than this. The venue is completely sold out. I don't remember any time a grappling event ever sold out. We've done it right. We've got all the bells and whistles and we've got the right partner.

There's a lot of moving parts because there's a lot of people involved. You do a four canvas shoot, particularly when you add a jib into it, which is the fancy name for the overhead camera. Since this grappling event will be taking place inside a steel cage, as opposed to a mat, you've got to raise that thing up over the top of the cage.

T.J. De Santis and Nate Quarry are going to be commentating. We had Bruce Buffer announcing it, but he took a spill while doing some kind of lip syncing or a concert or something and tore his ACL, the poor guy. His knee is so swollen, he can't fly. He will be missed.

Will we see Sonnen competing in Submission Underground?

You know, I'd like to compete, but I don't want to be selfish and take spots away from anyone. It's one of the frustrations I've had over the last couple years since I left MMA. I never say no. If anybody wants me to wrestle, I say yes every single time. With that said, I've only had two matches. There's just not very much opportunity. We'll see what happens in the future. I can't say that I will or I won't.

You can check out Submission Underground live and exclusively on FloCombat. The freshman event boasts a robust line-up that should please even the most hardcore fan. Here's the roster of fights:

You know, I'd like to compete, but I don't want to be selfish and take spots away from anyone.We'll see what happens in the future. I can't say that I will or I won't.
Main Card

Ronny Markes vs. Vinny Magalhaes

Fabiano Scherner vs. Ricco Rodriguez

Jake Shields vs. Chris Lytle

Josh Calvo vs. Filipe Costa

Stephen Abas vs. Alex Canders

Nate Orchard vs. Guilherme "Bomba" Vasconcelos


170: Joshua Bacallao vs. Nathan Wallner

155lb: Kevin Dadik vs. Phill Schwartz

140lb: Liz Tracy vs. Amanda Diggins

195lb: Alex Le vs. Howie Mole

145lb: Misty Davison vs. Hannah Sharp

175lb: Carsten Carlson vs. Billy Yi

185lb: Adam Shelton vs. Chris Martin

Here is a complete list of topics discussed during this great interview with Chael:
  • What the past week has been like for him (perspective of an insider)
  • Why the UFC just couldn't pay Daniel Cormier and not have him fight on the UFC 200 card
  • Thoughts on Cormier and Silva's performance
  • Prognosis for Jon Jones' future
  • How the UFC sale likely went down
  • Thoughts on new ownership impacting viewership
  • If he feels the new owners got a good deal for their $4.2B
  • How long he thinks the deal took to get done from start to finish
  • If he feels that Conor McGregor should get an equity stake in the company profits
  • What fighter benefits he sees moving forward under new ownership
  • If he feels there will be production changes under new owners
  • Where the fighter lawsuit goes from here
  • Discussion on his new promortion, Submission Grappling Series
  • What goes into the production side of it
  • How he determined the ruleset for the series
  • If he plans on competing
  • What else may be on the horizon for him

You can listen to the interview in its entirety here at the 57:45 mark or via the embedded player below. Remember, if you're looking for us on SoundCloud or iTunes, we're under the MMA Nation name. Follow our Twitter accounts: Stephie HaynesThree Amigos PodcastGeroge LockhartIain Kidd and Mookie Alexander or our Facebook fan page, Three Amigos Pod.

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