What happens when only 624,000 viewers watch last week’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter? Dana White works his magic, and Jon Jones changes his tune from not fighting Chael Sonnen to coaching the next season of TUF against Sonnen and fighting him on April 27, 2013.
Does Chael Sonnen, the guy who lost his last fight against Anderson Silva and spent the last six years at middleweight, deserve a shot at the light heavyweight championship? From a credential standpoint, no.
Does Chael Sonnen, the guy who gave Anderson Silva the most substantial run for his money and is the most compelling opponent, deserve a shot at the light heavyweight championship? From a money-making standpoint, absolutely.
Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida are the genuine contenders to the title, but Chael Sonnen will generate more revenue than both of them combined. Jones already disturbingly choked Machida unconscious, and Henderson’s only chance to victory is to land his vicious overhand right that everyone can see coming.
This a regular practice in Boxing but not so much in MMA. In 1997, Tank Abbott fought for the UFC Heavyweight title coming off a loss. In 2002, Kiyoshi Tamura fought for the PRIDE Middleweight title coming off a loss, and Justin Eilers fought for the UFC Heavyweight title while coming off a loss in 2005.
This is truly a heel vs. heel match-up with a distinctive twist. Chael Sonnen is the guy you love to hate, while Jon Jones is the guy you hate to love. If Sonnen can’t take down Jones, he will get smashed. The odds are so highly in Jones’ favor that traditionalists feel this match-up devalues the title’s integrity.
The purity of sport should be paramount, but the Ultimate Fighting Championship is a business that happens to be the most powerful entity in MMA. If you have a product that people will pay for, would you put it on the shelf instead of a less profitable one? No, you wouldn’t, and neither is Zuffa. Cheer, shout, bitch or whine; all eyes will be on the Octagon in late April to watch what will be the biggest fight of the year.