When does Chael Sonnen, iconoclast, perennial middleweight challenger and lyrical genius, deserve a shot at the UFC's light heavyweight title? How many fights should he have to win before being elevated to the top of the division's standings?
The question is complicated, in a perfect world requiring dozens of nerds, several scientific calculators and a limitless number of pocket protectors just to come up with a viable solution. Is there a mathematical "title shot" formula that factors in popularity, sporting credibility and the ability to move pay-per-views in seven figures?
One win is all it will take for Chael Sonnen to earn a shot at the light heavyweight title. He's primed the pump with a series of trash-talking tweets directed at Jon Jones. Fans on Twitter are buzzing—and there's no sound sweeter to Dana White than Twitter fans flapping their gums in 140 characters or less.
Sonnen will get his shot at gold with a single win. He knows what needs to be done. The bout is booked, a rematch with former champion Forrest Griffin. And inside, his smile must be very wide. Because a Jones fight, the biggest money fight for either man, is well within his grasp.
Chael's legions of haters are likely already gritting their teeth. The Griffin fight is inimitably winnable for Sonnen. In a division packed with great wrestlers and anti-wrestlers, he's been given the one prominent fighter who can't defend the takedown. He's been set up for success, and like all great thinkers, is already a step ahead of the game.
There's no guarantee that Sonnen will beat Griffin. After all, Forrest tapped him out in their first bout. There's also no guarantee Jones will even be champion when Sonnen's hand is raised. Chael's former teammate, Dan Henderson, will have plenty to say about that on September 1 when he hopes to yank the big gold belt out of Jones's hands.
But, if Jones emerges champion and Sonnen runs through a disinterested Griffin, battle lines have been drawn. Sonnen built his fight with Anderson Silva for years. He made it the hottest ticket in town by concentrating on it with a laser like focus for months. He's beginning to walk the same path with Jones.
Boardingplane toOregon now, home of your corporate wage masters. Next time you are in town, knock on my door. Don't drive. @johnnybones— chael sonnen (@sonnench) August 15, 2012
To his credit, the stiff light heavyweight champ is trying his best to play along. He fired back at Sonnen, telling the former All-American that he didn't respect him, even calling him a coward and a cheater.
It was compelling stuff, unfortunately ruined when Jones felt the need to let people behind the curtain and reveal that it was all meant in good fun, just entertainment for the fans. Jones, who famously ratted on his high school friends for smoking marijuana, continues to be a buzzkill.
For everyone who thinks I'm "falling into chaels game" I know exactly what I'm doing.. #AreYouNotEntertained— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) August 15, 2012
We know in our hearts that Chael Sonnen is playing a character. The same is true for any great sports entertainer, whether he's a wrestler, fighter or boxer. But we want to believe that it's real with every fiber of our being.
Jones will learn. The master will be there to hold his hand. By next year, we'll believe that Jones and Sonnen are ready to commit homicide. It might even be true.
We're two wins away from finding out, one for Sonnen and one for Jones. Light heavyweight just got a heck of a lot more interesting.