For those expecting fireworks between Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen, there’s no doubt that you’ll hear a litany of sharp-tongued putdowns and feisty retorts from the two fighters in the coming months, but if you’re expecting those exchanges to take place on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter, you may find yourself a little disappointed.
Jones is set to defend his UFC light heavyweight title against Sonnen on April 27 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
For Jones, it will be a return to the site where he first captured that crown, positively destroying Mauricio Rua on his way to a third-round TKO victory in March, 2011. For Sonnen it will be his first trip to “The Garden State” as a member of the UFC, but more importantly it will be his third title fight over the last two-and-a-half years and his first UFC fight at light heavyweight since he lost to Renato Sobral in October 2005.
The lead-in to the fight will be the 17th season of TUF, for which Jones and Sonnen will serve as opposing coaches. The season debuts on January 22nd on FX, and speculation is that the verbal jabs that Sonnen has become famous for will mostly be missing from the run of the show, according to Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer (H/T to The Underground):
The Jones vs. Sonnen stuff never heats up to the level near what one would expect. Sonnen comes across as being there to help coach his charges as opposed to being there to play pro wrestler and hype up a fight and the belief is he comes across great.
It’s hard to tell if the absence of friction between the two coaches will have any effect on the ratings of the show. Fans will tune in to see the premier, and if Jones and Sonnen don’t get into it on the first episode, they may tune out.
Or they may keep coming back week after week waiting for that one perfect moment when Sonnen unleashes one of his patented one-liners.
To listen to Sonnen, he has no interest in promoting a fight with Jones during the upcoming season of TUF. He was in Las Vegas to coach his team and help all the fighters involved in the show get better and take things to the next level. He told MMAJunkie.com the following:
I can create a positive environment that they look forward to going to. I can encourage, I can motivate, and I can inspire. And there's nothing that a coach can do that's more important than motivating—far in front of technique or knowledge is motivation, and that's what we're going to do.
Maybe the best thing Sonnen can do—and let’s face it, Sonnen will be the conductor here not Jones—is to leave the fans wanting more during the upcoming season of TUF. If he plays the villain, he’s giving everyone exactly what they are looking for and expecting.
On the other hand, if he leaves the viewers on the edges of their seats waiting for the other shoe to drop, but never delivering his verbal strikes, he’s doing exactly what he should be doing: building interest in TUF 17 while at the same time leaving the fans salivating for when he will finally does drop the verbal hammer on Jones.
You can rest assured that the hype, the promotion, the talk, the huge buildup for the April 27 title fight will eventually come.
I just wouldn’t count on it coming during the upcoming season of TUF, and that’s not a bad thing.