NEWARK, N.J. — For those who believe Chael Sonnen has no shot to beat UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones tonight and got the opportunity only because of his ability to promote fights with his mouth, Sonnen has a simple message:
“If you think I talked my way into this and you don’t think it’s a legitimate fight and worth your money to buy it, then don’t. I don’t want your money,” he said. “This is what it is. It’s a superfight. The two baddest dudes in the world are going to go fight and punch each other in the face until one of us has had enough.”
Jones, 25, enters tonight’s UFC 159 main event at the Prudential Center as more than a 10-1 favorite over an opponent who hasn’t fought at 205 pounds in nine years. UFC president Dana White acknowledges a victory by Sonnen, 36, would rank as the biggest title-fight upset in the organization’s history, surpassing Georges St. Pierre’s loss to Matt Serra in 2007.
Yet Jones was quick to dismiss the notion that Sonnen, who is coming up from 185 pounds after a second loss to champion Anderson Silva, will be a walkover.
“I think it’s ridiculous. He’s a great fighter, and his record doesn’t even show how good he actually is,” Jones said. “I’ve seen what he’s done to some of my teammates, Brian Stann and Nate Marquardt. I work out with those guys and understand how tough it is to beat them, and what he did to them, that’s real. I believe my eyes and what I see.”
Those close to Jones say he is in the best shape of his career, and White has said the same repeatedly this week. It appears to be an indication that Jones is taking the fight seriously.
“It’s a tough place to be in. If I win, it’s like, ‘Oh, well you’re supposed to anyways.’ And if I lose, it’s like, ‘Dude you lost to Chael? A guy who wasn’t supposed to even be in there in the first place?’ So I prepare for the best version of him possible,” Jones said. “The way I look at it is people are expecting me to win and saying I’m supposed to win, so what I do is I go out and win. I do what I’m supposed to do. I just have to dominate him. That’s the plan.”
Jones might be fighting history more than just the guy across the cage. He has spoken often of his desire to make his mark on the record books, and this fight offers another chance in the same building where he became the youngest champion in UFC history just more than two years ago. A victory would give him five straight successful title defenses in the light heavyweight division, tying the record that Tito Ortiz holds.
White said Jones has reached the level where his fights are intriguing regardless of who is below him on the marquee.
“The question is, when you have a guy like Jon Jones, can Chael Sonnen be the one to do something against him?” White said. “That’s what happens when you have guys go on these types of runs.”
Sonnen believes it might be time for Jones to alter his goals because he calls him already the best to compete in the light heavyweight division. He’s far from conceding victory in the fight, though.
“I watched very little of his tapes because every time you do, he’s kicking someone’s ass, and it doesn’t do a whole lot for me,” Sonnen said. “But I’ve got my skills too, and I’ve been at this a long time. I’m not going to lay down, and I’m not going to stop, and I’m not going to fall. I’ve never been knocked down in a fight.”
And for those who continue to complain that he was awarded this opportunity over more deserving light heavyweights, Sonnen couldn’t care less.
“There are few things that make me happier than when I win and everyone else is mad about it,” he said. “If I had any message to the haters, ‘Guys, I have done so much more that you should be mad about. You just don’t know it yet. Be patient. I’m not done taking over the world, and you people sitting at home are never going to control my fate. I will decide.’ ”
That will happen in the cage in the main event of a pay-per-view card that airs live at 7 p.m. The card also includes a key middleweight bout between Alan Belcher and Michael Bisping.
Two Las Vegans also are in action as heavyweight Roy Nelson meets Cheick Kongo and light heavyweight Vinny Magalhaes takes on Phil Davis.
Four fights from the preliminary card will air live on FX (Cable 24) at 5 p.m., with the remaining three bouts streaming on Facebook at 3:30 p.m.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.