Dana White and controversy are never far away from each other and they’ve been reunited again this week following yesterday’s announcement that Chael Sonnen is to get a coaching spot opposite Jon Jones on The Ultimate Fighter - followed by a title shot in April.
Given that Sonnen hasn’t ever fought in the UFC light-heavyweight division and is coming off a second-round TKO loss to Anderson Silva in his last middleweight venture, he clearly doesn’t have any business getting a shot at Jones’ belt. He should be at least two or three solid wins away, rather than leapfrogging worthier candidates.
But of course the UFC can do what it likes and Sonnen’s high profile and slick working of the PR machine makes him their number one choice because its going to translate into a superb series of TUF and a big-selling pay-per-view event in April.
The online MMA world is currently venting its rage at UFC frontman Dana White over the decision but their cries will fall on deaf ears. White and the UFC can do whatever they like and what they like is big fights that shift a lot of pay-per-view units and deliver entertainment with it.
“This wasn't where I was going. But when this [arm ijury] happened and Jones was going to be out for so long, it made sense. I understand completely [about Sonnen not having won a fight at light heavyweight], but it's a fight people want to see," he told Yahoo Sports writer Kevin Iole.
Iole says that the fight ‘denigrates’ the UFC title and undermines what he says is a company tradition of eschewing boxing’s corruption and making sure that title fights only go to the worthiest contenders. But he is in error there, because one only has to look at something like the Jon Fitch situation to see that mere merit is only part of the puzzle.
The UFC is a sports company and an entertainment company combined. But above either of those it is a pay-per-view company. The fight fan’s purse is the lifeblood of the organisation and so when the opportunity for a smash PPV comes along, the company will always jump at the chance. And for something to be a smash PPV seller, that means the public have embraced it in droves and given it their mandate.
In purely meritocratic terms, the match is a nonsense. But the fans want to see compelling fights and when all is said and done, putting Sonnen against Jones is going to have people glued to their screens. Not only for the fight itself but for the season of TUF which precedes it. TUF has been woeful in recent times - although the Australia vs. UK season has been good so far - and desperately needed a shot in the arm.
It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that TUF and/or FOX were somehow involved in this week’s announcement. It was only a few days ago that TUF was reported to be doing all-time record low viewer numbers. Did that spark a huddle between executives looking for something to spice the show up for its next season?
Whatever prompted it, all is now set. Fans can complain about the logic of the decision now but you can guarantee that after watching Sonnen wind Jones up for weeks on TUF, they will be ordering that event via speed dial when it goes down on April 27. The real loser in all of this is actually probably Sonnen. He is very unlikely to beat Jones and if he loses, his career will be left without direction and essentially begin winding down.