Chael Sonnen: The Only Big-Money Opponent Left for Jon Jones

Jeremy BotterMMA Senior WriterAugust 20, 2012

Jul. 7, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Chael Sonnen reacts after losing to Anderson Silva (not pictured) during a middleweight bout in UFC 148 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Chael Sonnen knows a good thing when he sees it.

He's moving up to a new weight class where the champion doesn't seem all that interested in doing tired old rematches with the same guys he's already crushed once before.

That presents Sonnen with a unique opportunity to cut completely in line, to jump to the head of the proverbial class and get himself a title shot without doing much of note in the division at all.

And so Sonnen started jabbing light heavyweight champion Jon Jones last week, both verbally and on Twitter. He got under the champ's skin quite effortlessly, but it was the aftermath that was intriguing to watch.

Instead of Jones saying—as so many fighters do—that he wasn't looking past his next opponent (Jones faces Dan Henderson on September 1st in Las Vegas), Jones began openly discussing his distaste for a rematch with Lyoto Machida.

Jones wants to make that pay-per-view cash, and who can blame him? He's young, he's popular (in a manner of speaking, anyway) and he's got a taste for expensive cars. He's also exhibited a preternatural talent for making other very good fighters look like rote beginners when they step in the cage with him.

Machida is the one fighter who has come the closest to making Jones look like a human being instead of a fighting cyborg sent from the future to let us know that our Fedor Emelianenko 1.0 model is out of date.

Not only does the fight itself present some risk, but it's a dead issue at the gate. Very few of you want to see Jones vs. Machida II, and even fewer of you would pay to see the rematch.

The answer to the Jones problem is quite obvious: it's Chael Sonnen.

Look, I'm no fan of giving Sonnen a title shot right now. Not coming off the loss to Anderson Silva. It goes against every molecule in my being that still believes in the concept of MMA as a sport instead of a spectacle.

I believe Sonnen needs at least one win before he gets a crack at the gold. That's the right way to do it. And he's supposed to get a chance against Forrest Griffin later this year, except now it seems like maybe Forrest isn't really all that interested in fighting Sonnen. But then again, I get the feeling Griffin isn't really all that interested in fighting anyone.

But I also realize that Jones, by virtue of his utter and complete dominance, has no other fights left at light heavyweight that will intrigue the general public. In terms of a true pay-per-view attraction, it's Sonnen or bust for Jones.

That's why you shouldn't be surprised if Jones continues angling to avoid the Machida rematch throughout the fall. After he beats Henderson at UFC 151—and he will, in fact, beat Henderson, so let's just move past that one—I won't be surprised to see Jones attempting to secure a playdate in the cage with Sonnen. 

It's the only fight that makes sense for his wallet.