The wake of the fiasco that was supposed to be UFC 151 isn’t disastrous, but there are certainly a few black eyes on the sport despite the fact that no punches will be thrown Saturday night.
Jon Jones has certainly taken the brunt of the wrath that has been dished out by fans, media and UFC brass, and rightfully so. He’s a champion, the best of the best. He’s supposed to be willing to take one for the team—or in this case, for all of the undercard fighters that don’t have a Nike payday in their back pocket.
Dana White and the UFC have also received their fair share of the blame. Why throw a card together that is so heavily reliant on one fight? This mess likely could’ve been avoided had there been even one more quality fight on the card.
But what many are overlooking is the lone bright spot of Hurricane Jon that ripped its way through what now is the card formally known as UFC 151. After every storm, the sun will shine, typically brighter than it has in days. In this case, that ray of sun is none other than Chael Sonnen.
The often brash, sometimes funny, but always game former middleweight contender tried to save the day. He stepped up on eight days’ notice to fight Jones, the seemingly unbeatable force atop the light heavyweight division. The 35-year-old would have given up size, power, agility and most importantly a training camp.
With a couple of wins, Sonnen surely would’ve found—or talked—his way into a title fight, but for the good of the company he was willing to forgo a camp, fight out of shape, and likely make himself look like a fool in the process.
What many don’t understand is everything that happens in the 8-12 week training camp leading up to a fight. Yes, even out of shape these men are in better shape than 95 percent of the population, but the camp consists of more than preparing your body for war. There’s an overhaul of your diet, there are films to be studied, potentially even a new style to learn and so much more. In Sonnen’s case, he would’ve had to figure out how to close the distance on a much taller and lankier opponent—something that no one with a full camp has been able to do thus far.
In order to save the card, the West Linn, Ore., native was willing to risk a future title shot. Had he gotten in that cage and gotten knocked out in five seconds, or been thrown around like a rag doll for 25 minutes, he could’ve missed out at a future shot at the title, and that’s what all of these guys are here for, right? To be the best and have that strap wrapped around their waist.
Why would Sonnen risk it all, you may ask?
Because “The American Gangster” gets it. He knows that without the fans, many of whom boo him relentlessly, he wouldn’t have a job. He understands that while MMA is a sport, that there is a certain entertainment factor that needs to be present in order to sell fights. He may not have pulled out the victory, but between last Thursday and Sept. 1, he would’ve had a large portion of people believing in the upset. He certainly wouldn’t have been a 13-1 underdog like Vitor Belfort is, and that would be largely due to the fact he knows how to sell a fight. Lastly, he understands that him going out there and potentially looking like a boy in a man’s game would be a better alternative to canceling a card altogether. Something Jones clearly doesn’t get.
Throughout this whole mess, one can only hope that Sonnen has made a plethora of new fans. Any man that is willing to step up the way he did deserves that. He deserves the credit, the adulation and the spotlight for something good, rather than his nonsense.
Sonnen may speak his own version of crazy, but as the age-old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Unlike Jones, Sonnen was ready for action.
Photo: Chael Sonnen (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)