It's safe to say that Jon Jones knows the real Chael Sonnen.
He did spend six weeks in wintry Las Vegas with Sonnen, after all, while the pair served as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter. And during that time, Jones came to understand that there are two versions of Sonnen, and that those two versions are so very different from each other.
One of them is the real Sonnen. He's one of the nicest and most respectful men you'd ever meet, a fighter who still goes out of his way to address strangers as "sir" or "ma'am," and who still involves his mother in nearly aspect of his life out of pure deference.
Then there is the other Sonnen. You know him quite well, I'm sure. He grew up watching Superstar Billy Graham cut wrestling promos in Portland and, well, decided to apply the same kind of gimmick to his mixed martial arts career. And just like it did in the fake world of wrestling, Sonnen's over-the-top schtick seems to work on MMA fans like a charm. How else to explain the fact that he's coming off a loss in one weight class and yet will receive a title shot in a different weight class later this month?
Sonnen was his natural self during The Ultimate Fighter: affable, friendly and one of the best coaches in the history of the show. But now, there's a fight to promote, and Sonnen's flipped the switch that takes him from babyface to heel, in wrestling parlance. But this time around, Jones isn't getting mad. He understands Sonnen's mission, and tells MMAFighting.com that he's not bothered by the sudden influx of trash talk coming from Sonnen's side.
"Chael's [mouth] doesn't bother me at all," the UFC light heavyweight champion assured MMAFighting.com. "I think if I was to take it personal, if I wasn't to understand it, it would bother me. But I have a pretty clear understanding of who Chael is, what he's accomplished, and my understanding kind of takes the power away from his words and his persona.
"You can see that the talk has picked up a little bit. But Chael is in the ‘promote fight' business. I guess that's how he got in this situation in the first place. I'm in the ‘remain champion' business. So, I'm excited. I'm excited to go out there and do what I do best, and that's win championships."
That's definitely how Sonnen got in this situation in the first place: He talked his way there. Make no mistake about it, because that's the entirety of the story. And this is likely Sonnen's last chance to pull this particular trick; a loss to Jones, and it will be a long time before he ever gets a title shot again.
It's good to see Jones catching on to Sonnen's antics. I can't believe it took this long for an opponent to realize that Sonnen is just marketing a fight, and that it's best to let it play out. Jones knows that his pocketbook will be affected (in a good way) by Sonnen saying a few outlandish things, so he's content to let it play out.
That's a good decision.