The unquestioned biggest winner of last week's cancellation of UFC 151 was Chael Sonnen.
There's no real way to argue otherwise. Sonnen went from defeated middleweight title contender to "in the mix" light heavyweight title challenger, all without, you know, actually fighting at light heavyweight to earn the spot.
And despite Sonnen being passed over for the shot at Jon Jones—that honor went to Vitor Belfort, another middleweight who will try to wrest the title from the young champion at UFC 152 in Toronto—he's still making waves and creating news where there seemingly isn't any actual news to be found.
Sonnen told FightLine that he still thinks he'll be the guy standing across the cage from Jones once September 22 rolls around:
I've got an agreement to fight a gentleman named Forrest Griffin on December 29, but I don't know. Jon Jones has a date of September 22 and right now, he's fighting Vitor Belfort. Vitor never shows up, Vitor has pulled out of way more fights than he has ever shown up for, so if I had to guess you'll be seeing me fight Jon Jones on September 22.
I'm not buying it. I'm not saying that there's no way Belfort pulls out of the fight, because we've all been conditioned to accept that any major fight is going to be drastically altered by injuries or drugs or some other type of craziness.
But even if Belfort is injured, I can't imagine a scenario where Sonnen will be the guy chosen to take his place, and it's not because Jones vs. Sonnen wouldn't be a huge-money fight. It would be. In fact, it's probably the largest pay-per-view fight left for Jones at light heavyweight.
I just can't see Sonnen getting the shot because, quite frankly, I don't think he'd be able to get into Canada for a fight in the first place. The money-laundering charges Sonnen pleaded guilty to in January of 2011 would almost certainly raise red flags when it came time for Sonnen to go through customs, and Canada is notoriously strict about letting folks with criminal records into their beloved country.
I've actually seen Canada's strict regulations applied in person. Last year, a friend of mine embarked on a trip to Toronto to see the Georges St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields fight at UFC 129. He has a similar white-collar felony on his record, and he was detained at the border for just under 30 minutes before being summarily turned away and forced to go home.
Sonnen's stature as a UFC superstar might make a difference, and Zuffa is well-connected at high political levels in Canada. But the Canadian government isn't known for making exceptions for anyone, no matter who it is or what they're planning on coming into the country for.
In short, even if Belfort does injure himself and pull out of the fight—and all indications are that he's training at the Blackzilian camp with safety as his paramount concern—it still won't be Sonnen who is called upon as a replacement.
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