With the recent news that Chael Sonnen would be coaching the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter opposite of Jon Jones, there was some speculation about what that meant for the proposed bout between Chael Sonnen and Forrest Griffin at UFC 155.
The reason for speculation was sound.
What would the UFC possibly do if Sonnen lost to Griffin at the UFC's end-of-year event? Or worse, what would happen if the fight ended up being a total snoozer? Would they still go forward with their plans for The Ultimate Fighter?
Apparently Zuffa saw the risk and opted to remove Sonnen from UFC 155 entirely. In fact, he won't be fighting until April at a yet-to-be-numbered UFC event.
Having Sonnen on the shelf is a risky move for the UFC. While a win over Griffin likely wouldn't have appeased many detractors, it would have at least mildly justified Sonnen getting a shot at Jones.
Instead, he's getting fast-tracked to a title shot and jumping over the more deserving contenders such as Alexander Gustafsson and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
That's not to say that I don't get it.
As far as marketability and promotion go, there are few better at building a fight than Sonnen, and since the UFC is a pay-per-view business, they need to maximize profits. I just don't see how sacrificing the legitimacy of a title is a smart business decision.
The likely reason is that the UFC felt they needed a proverbial "game changer" due to the declining TUF ratings, and Chael Sonnen was the obvious choice. He'll provide weeks of entertainment and will hopefully draw eyeballs to a struggling television show.
But him getting a title shot is a sham.
If the UFC wants to be accepted as a "major league" sport, they need to present themselves that way. Sonnen is getting the coaching gig and subsequent title shot because of his gift of gab.
Ultimately though, the cancellation of Sonnen/Griffin is good for business. While I may disagree with the decision, they need something to save a dying TUF franchise. If Sonnen and Jones aren't the answer, I'm not sure who on the roster could possibly compel fans to tune back in week after week.
Lost in all of this is what happens with Griffin. White was extremely critical of the former light heavyweight champion following UFC 148 and openly stated that it may be time for Griffin to consider hanging it up.
Hopefully Joe Silva can find a new opponent for Griffin. It would be a shame for him to lose out on such a big fight this way.