DALLAS (105.3 THE FAN) – What Jon Jones had no interest in doing this past Labor Day weekend will become a reality for him next April, and the build up to it will play out in front of a national television audience.
In a stunning reversal of position culminating with a bombshell announcement this week from UFC president Dana White, Jones has agreed to defend his light heavyweight title against one time middleweight contender Chael Sonnen, after both men coach opposite each other on the 17th season of “The Ultimate Fighter”.
Here me talk to Dana White, Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen together yesterday about this blockbuster announcement:
PLAY: Richard Hunter interview with Dana White, Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen
Sonnen tried (and failed) to step in on eight days notice at UFC 151 this past September to face Jones after his original opponent Dan Henderson had puled out due to injury. Jones’ camp advised him against it, and as a result to entire event was cancelled, infuriating White and touching off an unprecedented firestorm of controversy within the sport. For his part Sonnen continued his war of words against Jones on Twitter, and as recently as last week, Jones indicated that he might be warming up to the idea of fighting Sonnen at the fans’ behest. Sonnen has not fought at light heavyweight in years, and Jones will enter the fight as a significant favorite.
Perhaps the biggest winner here in the UFC family is the “Ultimate Fighter” franchise. Since moving rom Spike TV to the FX network, the series had dealt with transitional challenges. Last season there was the experiment of airing the fights live and extending the number of weeks involved in filming, and this season the Friday night spot in the FX line up seemed to be less desirable than a prime time spot on another day. FX executive Chuck Safter confirmed to me yesterday that the series will indeed move to another night of the week for its’ 17th season, going so far as to say that its’ former network Spike “had better watch its’ ass”.
The coaching contest between Jones and Sonnen will no doubt be a huge boost for the series ratings, and it comes at a perfect time when The UFC needs to make sure that all those who watched the show on its’ old network now understand where to find its’ new home.
Looking ahead to April, a Jon Jones/Chael Sonnen showdown will undoubtedly be one of the highest grossing and most talked about pay per views in UFC history. Get ready for one of the most compelling mixed martial arts story lines of the last few years. We’re all in for a treat.
Follow Richard on Twitter @RichardHunter
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