Who in the world of mixed martial arts can have nothing to do with a particular event and then steal the show from the participants like only he can? Only Chael Sonnen.
That was the case on Thursday, when it was announced by UFC president Dana White that with Dan Henderson unable to fight in the main event of UFC 151 on September 1st due to a knee injury, that the search went out for a replacement to meet light heavyweight boss Jon Jones. The one fighter who agreed to step in was Sonnen, but Jones declined the fight, prompting the UFC to cancel next Saturday’s event. That decision set off a firestorm of comments around the internet and especially on social networking sites, with everyone having a particular opinion that they wanted to air. But whether you were pro-Jones, anti-Jones, pro-UFC, or anti-UFC, it was pretty clear that everyone was pro-Sonnen, who probably never expected his Thursday afternoon to turn into what it did.
“No, it’s really not, but it’s okay,” he chuckled. “I’m still having a nice day.”
And why not? If you take away the endless interviews, the self-proclaimed “Gangster from West Linn” may have made his light heavyweight return for the first time since 2005 without even stepping into the Octagon. Could you think of anyone who could have pulled off a similar feat where you want to see them fight the champion of the division without even seeing them fight at that weight? And all it took was a phone call from White asking him if he would be ready to fight Jones in slightly over a week. Sonnen said yes, but when the fight didn’t get signed, he was bewildered.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Sonnen. “I’ve never seen a champion turn down a fight. I’ve never seen a main event turn down a fight, and I’ve never seen a guy that’s healthy and went through a training camp turn down a fight. All three happened today with the same person. And it was so surprising.”
“We’re under attack as a business from all sorts of competitors, and that’s fine, that’s what America’s about,” he continues. “With capitalism, anybody can go down and get a promoter’s license and come in, but we’re still under attack from those guys. We’re under attack every day from states and politicians and different political action committees that are trying to keep our sport out. And even though they’re failing and those guys are becoming few and far between, they still exist. If we’re to liken this to war, this was treason. We were attacked from one of our own, we were attacked from within. Jon Jones delivered a blow from within the organization that attacked and hurt the organization. It’s an unbelievable scenario, and I just don’t understand it.”
According to White, Sonnen didn’t hesitate to accept the short notice bout Wednesday night after it was determined that Henderson would not be cleared to fight, but you have to wonder that if Jones did take it, would the two-time middleweight title challenger been able to get in fight shape to fight a young champion on top of his game in a week’s time?
“I don’t ever think about being ready,” said Sonnen. “All I need to know is when it’s my turn, and none of that other stuff matters to me. Sure, anybody can train for a fight and show up in shape, but a real man just steps in and lets it ride.”
Unfortunately for the 35-year old, after getting the scent of a world title shot, he now has to wait until December to get back in the Octagon to face former champ Forrest Griffin. Sonnen isn’t bitter or in the complaining mood though. It’s just not his style.
“There are all sorts of different scenarios and all sorts of different things that happen and I don’t get caught up in any of that,” he said. “If I have a job to do, I’ll go out and do it, and to say that I wanted to envy one position over another isn’t true. But at the same time, I’m in a profession that I chose to do, and there’s nothing else that I want to do, and there will never be a day that you’ll hear me complain.”
He does have his sights set on Johnny “Bones” though. That much is clear. And while the champion has yet to make a statement regarding the last 24 tumultuous hours, when he does, he will have plenty of material to respond to from one Chael P. Sonnen, who has one more salvo to fire off.
“A champion will find a way,” he said. “And the other guys will find an excuse. And the real champion isn’t always the one that holds the belt. There’s a lot more that goes to it. I always knew I’d win the UFC light heavyweight championship; I just didn’t know it would be by forfeit.”
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