Chael Sonnen is an odd dude. There are times when his brash, over-the-top antics leave you rolling your eyes in exasperation. Other times, Sonnen comes across as thoughtful and considerate. Usually, those two versions of Sonnen do not meet.
On Monday, during the UFC 159 media call, they did.
Sonnen will fight for the UFC light heavyweight title on Saturday, April 27. His opponent that night will be Jon Jones, a fighter he has referred to (per UFC Tonight) in the past as a “punk kid.”
That type of trash talk did make an appearance during the call, but for the most part, Sonnen was very complimentary of the champ.
That change in opinion may have come from the time the two spent in proximity during the filming of Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter or it could be some type of gamesmanship, killing his opponent with kindness. With Sonnen, you can never be sure of the endgame.
Sonnen did say that his opinion of Jones changed almost immediately upon meeting him and seeing him work with his fighters of TUF. “My perception about Jon changed in about 30 seconds. He is a good guy, he’s a very nice guy," Sonnen said. "I hear people that insult him a lot, and I’m going, wait a second, this guy is the world champion, this guy has achieved what everyone dreams of.”
“I think people should copy Jon more than attempt to correct him. He cared a lot about his team, he took coaching very seriously, he was on time every time and he inspired a bunch of guys that really needed it. They looked up to him and he was there for them. He’s a nice person, and there’s not a lot I can say.”
Kind words from Sonnen, but those were mostly in regard to Jones as a person and as a coach. His take on Jones inside the Octagon is a bit different.
“As far as a competitive standpoint, I think I can beat him," he said. "I love watching him, I think he’s very good, but I think I can beat him.”
Sonnen’s opinion that Jones is “very good” barely scratches the surface as to just how good Sonnen truly thinks the champ is.
“I don’t think he understands how good he is. For him to pay tribute to Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali earlier was a very nice thing for him to do, but the reality is that Jon Jones could beat Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali in the same day.”
“When he says he wants to be the best ever, Jon, newsflash buddy, you are the best," Sonnen said. "As far as tying Tito Ortiz, maybe he had a couple more wins, but he hasn’t had the competition that you’ve faced. I’m not going to try to degrade Jon. He’s a world champion, he’s the best in the weight class, and he’s the best the weight class has ever seen.”
One name that always comes up when talking to Sonnen is Anderson Silva, the man that Sonnen claimed to have “stomped, twice.” Sonnen said he found it very interesting to hear opinions offered that Silva would be able to defeat Jones.
“Sometimes I hear that I don’t deserve this fight, but then I hear that Anderson can beat him and I’m thinking you’ve got to be kidding me.”
The thought that Silva could beat Jones has Sonnen feeling very confident going into Saturday night.
”If you think Anderson and Jon are even close, I will run through Jon because I ran through Anderson. I don’t think they’re close, I think Jon is considerably better than Anderson.“
The question of having earned a title shot in a weight division he has not fought in since 2005 is also one that seems to bother Sonnen, but maybe not for the reasons that some would think. You see, for Sonnen, there’s no question about having earned the fight with Jones.
“I don’t earn title shots, title shots earn me. I don’t go after main events, main events go after me. Whether I deserve it or not, listen, I’m a Republican I don’t talk in those terms. I take what I want and that’s it.”
On Saturday night, we’ll find out if Sonnen can take the UFC gold from Jon Jones’ waist.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted.