It was a statement that likely perplexed fans and probably gave Vitor Belfort a brain aneurysm, but Dana White made it clear he felt Chael Sonnen was the top dog in the UFC middleweight division.
The assertion came during an interview with Boston.com's Steve Silva at the Boston Sports Live studios. White spoke on the upcoming Sonnen vs. Mauricio Rua bout at UFC Fight Night 26 on August 17, and responded to the notion that some fans questioned Sonnen getting a marquee fight following two consecutive losses.
“First of all, people are ridiculous,” White said in his standard blunt fashion.
“Chael Sonnen's two losses are to the two best pound-for-pound [fighters]. When you lose, not to just champions, but to two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world... In my opinion [Chael] is still the number-one contender at 185 pounds.”
Perhaps it was simply a matter of marketing the upcoming fight, or maybe it was a statement tailored to keep a marketable fighter on the radar. Whatever the case, it is an opinion that surely does not ring true for most UFC fans.
What is likely worrisome to those who disagree with White's opinion is that there is no true objective ranking system in the UFC, and so the president's opinion may matter greatly. While White's qualification “In my opinion,” may lead some to disregard his statement prima facie, in the end White likely has significant control of who receives a title shot.
While it may send shutters down the spines of many purists and hardcore fans, Dana thinking Chael is the top contender (and continued marketable commodity) could equal another middleweight title shot for the “Gangster from West Linn, Oregon.”