Sonnen’s shot at UFC title angers fellow contenders

Trash-talking Ultimate Fighting Championship star Chael Sonnen has a simple message for those who think his role as a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter” and subsequent title shot against light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is an unwarranted reward based on his marketability and mouth rather than merit.

Get over it.

Several light heavyweight contenders turned to social media after the announcement and expressed irritation that Sonnen, who is coming off a loss to middleweight champion Anderson Silva in July, would get such an opportunity in a weight class in which he hasn’t competed since 2005.

“Welcome to life,” Sonnen said on a Wednesday conference call. “We don’t deserve things. You get what you get. And let’s understand, not one of those fighters said, ‘Hey, I’ll fight Chael. Let me prove that I’m the No. 1 contender. Let me fight that guy.’ Not one of them. They all sat there and said their little things. I’ve called every one of those bastards out, and I’ll call them out right now.”

Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson, in particular, expressed frustration at Sonnen getting the opportunity.

“I guess I should just quit training to win fights and to be exciting for the fans and just go to (trash) talking school,” Henderson tweeted.

Sonnen said he is the only one willing to say he would face Jones at any time.

“Guys always get jealous or envious of someone getting an opportunity, but they never want to walk out to the mound and point to the crowd and tell them where they’re going to hit the ball,” Sonnen said. “I will. I’ll call my shot. As far as talking my way into it, I don’t care. So what? I wanted it, and I got it. I talked a cat out of a tree earlier today. At the end of it all, good for me.”

Henderson was considered the No. 1 contender before he pulled out of a Sept. 1 fight with Jones a week before. Sonnen offered to fill Henderson’s spot, but Jones rejected the replacement opponent, triggering the cancellation of UFC 151. Machida passed on fighting Jones later in September on just less than a month’s notice.

Jones eventually defeated Vitor Belfort on Sept. 22 at UFC 152, but was injured in the win. His elbow will need several months of rehab, creating the perfect scenario for him to coach Season 17 of the organization’s reality show, which begins taping this month in Las Vegas. The season will air for 12 weeks starting in January, with Jones and Sonnen meeting for the belt April 27.

Jones has been consistent in his belief Sonnen doesn’t deserve the chance to fight him, but he hopes taking the bout will help him put the ugliness of the past couple of months behind him.

“I’m trying to move forward and do amazing things, and the UFC 151 cancellation was a tough moment in my career,” he said. “Beating Chael Sonnen and then after that beating Dan Henderson will help me bring closure to that whole situation.”

Sonnen and Jones are expected to rekindle interest in a show that has seen ratings stagnate in recent seasons, particularly since moving from Spike to FX. An executive for FX said the show will move from Friday nights to a weekday time slot with Jones and Sonnen, citing “high expectations” for the ratings.

“Chael Sonnen is going to take half of the young men and teach them to be fighters, and Jon Jones is going to take half of these young men and teach them to be selfish,” Sonnen said.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.

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