Fresh of the heels of Tuesday’s breaking news Jones and Sonnen would coach opposite one another on the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show (set to air on FX in January) and then fight for the 205-pound title on April 27, Jones took no time breaking down the fight and his next opponent in every way possible, starting with why he took the fight in the first place.
“(Fighting Sonnen) really had to do with, you know just getting over this chapter of my career.” Jones said of his reasoning for taking the fight with Sonnen on a media conference call Wednesday afternoon. “It’s like I’m trying to move forward and do a lot of amazing things, and the UFC 151 cancellation, you know it’s like that was a tough moment in my career and I think beating Chael Sonnen…will help me get closure on that situation so, I really think that’s what this is about for me.
“It puts closure to the Chael Sonnen invasion of my career.”
Jones and Sonnen came very close to fighting in September when Dan Henderson withdrew from UFC 151 just eight-days prior to the event, leaving the champion without an opponent. Sonnen came to the rescue and, even without a proper training camp, was willing to step in the cage. Jones turned down the fight citing a lack of preparation time and the event was ultimately canceled.
Sonnen spent the following weeks taunting Jones in interviews and on Twitter until, much to everyone’s surprise, the news broke the two men would coach a group of up-and-coming fighters on “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show and face off at the end of the season.
While Sonnen has said plenty about Jones in the past weeks and months, the 25-year-old has been fairly humble. However, on Wednesday’s media call, Jones opened up in a big way.
“Chael’s an interesting guy,” Jones said when asked for his thoughts on Sonnen as a person. “He’s a good talker, he’s definitely good for the sport in some ways, he’s extremely disrespectful, not much of a championship level athlete at all, but you know he has his qualities. Most of his qualities are going to come to light when he’s retired so he can do his TV shows and commentating and things like that, so you know now I feel as if I’m doing a lot of people in the sport a favor, I’m doing Chael a favor by showing him what his true talent is and that’s using that gift of gab, not athletic talent.
“…I respect some things about him. Like the way he – tries to go out there and you know gets what he wants. Everything except for world championships or any championships.”
Jones opened as a huge betting favorite over Sonnen, and for good reason. The New York native is 17-1 as a professional and is one win away from tying Tito Ortiz’s UFC record for most consecutive light heavyweight title defenses at five. Sonnen, on the other hand, is coming off a second-round TKO loss to Anderson Silva and will fight at 205-pounds for the first time in over five years when he meets Jones in April.
Even though odds makers are counting Sonnen out, the wrestling abilities of the 35-year-old typically give him a chance in any fight. Jones, however, has never been taken down in his MMA career. With that being the case, does Jones believe Sonnen will be the first to put him on his back?
“I don’t really have much pride in never being taken down, it just has never happened because of how seriously I take wrestling.” Jones explained. “Chael Sonnen definitely is a decent, a pretty good wrestler, but you know the guy was an Olympic alternate, he wasn’t actually on the team. So, no disrespect to any other alternates out there today but I don’t really consider him -Chael- as a Cael Sanderson or you know, a legit wrestler, I mean he was a freakin’ alternate, so maybe he will get me down, who cares if he does?
“He gets submitted all the time in the top position anyways and, you know, I think I have a very solid jiu-jitsu game on my back and I’ve never been able to display it. So, I highly doubt his wrestling will play a gigantic factor in the fight. I wrestled since I was 14-year-old little boy, and I still wrestle everyday, I freakin’ love wrestling so I definitely prepare to use my takedowns against him. If he does get me down, so what? His ground-and-pound is very weak and he gets submitted all the time anyways so I don’t care if he takes me down I really don’t feel any threat on my back against Chael Sonnen and I know for a fact if I get him down his face is probably going to open up.”
For someone who will fight one of the most successful takedown artists in the UFC today, Jones surely doesn’t appear too concerned about Sonnen’s wrestling abilities. But what about the rest of Sonnen’s skills? How does Jones see his talents stacking up against those of Sonnen?
“I just think when it comes to wrestling, I have nothing to worry about. When it comes to jiu-jitsu, I think I have a slight edge in jiu-jitsu. When it comes to kickboxing, I know I have a friggin’ edge in kickboxing. His punching power on his feet is nothing crazy, mine’s nothing crazy. I’m not intimidated by his kicks, I mean I really don’t see any way Chael can win this fight but I’m still going to train like an absolute madman because losing to Chael is not an option.
“I’m going to treat him like he’s the biggest opponent I’ve ever had, I’m absolutely ready to smack down on his for a lot of the things he’s said about other people not even me. And I’m just ready to send this guy to retirement, send him to the movies.”
Even with the fight over six-months away, Jones appears highly motivated to, in his words; move on with this chapter of his career against Sonnen. When the two do meet in April, the fight may not be viewed as the most competitive of match ups, but it will certainly garner as much, if not more attention than either man has ever received.
With increased attention comes increased pressure to perform. When “Bones” makes the walk to the octagon to fight Sonnen next year, one major factor will make the difference in Jones’ opinion – he is a championship fighter while Sonnen is not.
“I absolutely know I can beat Chael and I’m feeling very confident going into this fight…” Jones said. “I just need to use all my skillset – all my youth, all my versatility and I’m a championship fighter, you know, and I don’t think Chael’s a guy who knows how to win championships.
“With that said I believe in every way, shape and form that I will beat Chael.”