(Full audio from the call, via MMAFightingonSBN)
TUF 17 coaches Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen, along with UFC president Dana White and FX exec Chuck Saftler, hosted a media conference call yesterday in which they promoted the upcoming season and fielded questions from baffled reporters. It was a lively affair, marked by an unusually aggressive Jon Jones — Chael tends to bring that out of people — and some interesting revelations about the future of The Ultimate Fighter. Here are some highlights…
FX is moving TUF off Friday nights, and preparing for a war with Spike: “The show is going to move off of Friday nights,” Saftler said. “I can’t confirm the day right now, but it’s definitely moving off of Friday, it’s definitely moving to a weekday. There will be an announcement on that somewhere in the next 30 to 45 days. But I will say that Spike should watch their ass. Spike clearly has been dogging us for most of this year…by trying to create viewer confusion and scheduling old episodes against ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and trying to pass them off as new content. They’ll be off of the UFC game effective in January. They’re going to try to launch a new product, there’s going to try to launch their own reality show that competes with ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ or does a very similar thing with their Bellator product. We watched how they behaved, and we’re well aware of their behavior and how they’ve acted competitively…I’m not ready to commit to (scheduling TUF directly against the Bellator show on Spike), but we’re certainly going to be watching how they schedule, what they schedule and where they schedule.”
Jones vs. Sonnen “made sense,” according to Dana White: “Basically, we got the word when Jon went out and got his elbow checked, that he was out and couldn’t come back until April,” White explained. “So it made sense* for him to do The Ultimate Fighter. Why block up [the division]? Machida can fight. Dan Henderson can fight. Gustafsson and Shogun are going to fight in December. Everything will keep right on moving…These guys will both coach The Ultimate Fighter. They’ll fight when the season’s over, and then whoever’s next in line at 205 pounds can fight Jon Jones** next for the title.”
Jonny Bones twists the knife: “Chael’s an interesting guy,” said Jones. “I respect some things about him, like the way he goes out there and gets what he wants, everything except for a world championship or any championships. So he’s a good talker, he’s definitely good for the sport in some ways, and he’s extremely disrespectful and not much of a championship level athlete at all, but he has his qualities, and most of his qualities are gonna come to light when he retires and when he’s able to do his TV shows and commentating and things like that. But right now I feel as if I’m doing a lot of people in the sport a favor and I’m doing Chael a favor by showing him what his true calling is, and that’s using that gift of gab, not athletic talent.”
“[Agreeing to fight Sonnen] really just had to do with getting over this chapter in my career. I’m trying to move forward and do a lot of amazing things, and the UFC 151 cancellation was a tough moment in my career, and I think beating Chael Sonnen and after that beating Dan Henderson will help me have closure to that whole situation.
Just two months ago I had the whole world calling me a sissy and a wuss and saying that I’m afraid of Chael Sonnen, and even my own fans in my hometown questioned why I wouldn’t fight him. And it seems like a lot of people have jumped on this train of Chael not deserving a title shot, but they jumped on that train a little too late. I think I’m over the fact of whether he deserves it or not, and I’m getting more realistic with the fact that the fans really want it. And without the fans, who are any of us?”
“I absolutely know I can beat Chael, and I’m really confident going into this fight based on my skill set, my youth, my versatility, and that I’m a championship fighter,” Jones said. “I don’t think Chael’s really a guy who knows how to win championships. And with that being said, I believe in every way, shape, and form that I’ll beat Chael.”
Chael Sonnen on that tricky concept of “deserving” a title shot: “Welcome to life,” Sonnen said. “We don’t deserve things, we get what we get. And let’s understand, not one of those fighters said ‘Hey Dana, I’ll fight Chael. Let me prove that I’m the number one contender, let me fight that guy.’ Not one of them. They all sat there and said their little things, so I’ve called every one of those bastards out and I’ll call them out right now. And I’ve got no problem getting a tune up fight and slapping any one of these guys around, including the Karate Kid [Machida]. So not only do they not want to carry the heavy water and fight me, they don’t want to fight Jon Jones. Not one of them called out Jon. The only fighter to call Jones out is me. Nobody called me out.
I don’t turn down fights and I never get hurt. I will fight anybody at anytime. So these guys can say all these things they want, but not one of them has stepped up. I gotta deal with this all the time, where guys always get jealous or envious of an opportunity, but they never want to walk out to the mound and point to the crowd and tell them where they’re gonna hit the ball. I will. I’ll call my shots. And as far as talking my way into it, what do I care about that? So what I talked my way into it? I wanted it and I got it. I talked a cat out of a tree earlier today. Good for me, and chalk one more up for the bad guy.”
“Look, [Jones] needs me, he hasn’t beat anybody until he beats me. He beat (Ryan) Bader, he beat Shogun, he beat — who’s that glorified Hollywood extra — Rampage (Jackson), he beat Vitor. What’s next, he’s gonna fight Scott Ferrozzo? [Ed. note: LOL!] Listen, he needs me, and I am the man, and I’m the man because I say I’m the man, and if anybody else wants the spot, come say it and come take it from me.”
And finally, a friendly disagreement over hormone therapy: “First off, I’ve been on both sides of an ass-whooping, and that’s something that Jon hasn’t,” Sonnen said. “Jon’s been very dominant, but he’s also fought a lot of guys who’re timid and they’re afraid to get into a fight. I’m going to walk out there and I’m going to get into a fist fight. And above everything, I’m in a lot better shape than Jon or anybody else he’s fought. As much as I’ll admit, Jon is better — skill for skill he’s fantastic — Jon will admit, I’m in better shape than anybody he’s fought.”
“In good shape on TRT, or off TRT?” Jones replied.
“On TRT, Jon. You tell everybody, you let the media know…Eh, let’s move on.”
“I think it’s terrible,” Jones said later, shifting focus back to the TRT discussion. “I think it’s professionally terrible if your going to consider yourself an athlete. I mean, TRT would be perfect for Chael Sonnen if he wasn’t competing in one of the toughest sports in the world. I think Chael Sonnen made tons of money when he was a young guy, and now he’s an older guy. Now just to be able to take a drug and super-enhance yourself back to where you were in your twenties is bull. Right now I’m 25. I’m sure I’m not as giddy and happy-go-lucky as I was when I was 20, so if I take a drug at my 25-year-old age and have the energy of a 20-year-old, it just wouldn’t be fair. Everyone would hate me if I did it. But Chael Sonnen gets to do it? I think it’s bullcrap.”
“I don’t have any comment on the topic,” Sonnen said.
* Speaking of fights that make sense, here’s Dana White in August, talking about Nick Diaz wanting to go up in weight and fight Anderson Silva: “Nick Diaz makes no sense. I know that it sounds fun ‘YEAH! Throw Nick Diaz in there!’ But if you really look at the thing, Nick Diaz just lost to Condit. You know what I mean? … at 170 so that gives him the opportunity to move up to 185 and fight the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world? In what f*cking universe does that make sense?” A few weeks later, Dana adamantly stated that Sonnen wouldn’t be able to just talk his way into a 205-pound title shot. But hey, can’t a guy change his mind?
** Or Chael Sonnen, right? Jesus, even the fight’s promoter can’t be bothered to give him a chance in this one.