UFC President Dana White can tell you that FX is happy with the ratings TUF is pulling on a notoriously slow night for television (Friday nights, in case you’re one of millions that aren’t watching), but he can’t tell you that pitting Jones and Sonnen against one another as coaches, despite the obvious flaws in having Sonnen fight for a light-heavyweight championship at season’s end, isn’t a desperate attempt to increase viewership.
The ratings should be better than the record-low numbers being produced by the current season featuring Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin. But that doesn’t mean it won’t come at the expense of many others who will ultimately be affected by today’s decision.
This post examines who those parties will be.
The obvious parties: Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen
Jon Jones didn’t want to fight Chael Sonnen back when UFC 151 was being prepared for execution.
He didn’t want to fight Sonnen with only eight days to prepare but also mentioned that Sonnen didn’t deserve a title shot. Things have since changed and Jones warmed up to the idea of fighting Sonnen earlier this week.
Jones warmed up to the idea of fighting Sonnen so much that he agreed to spend a few months filming a reality television show to help hype the fight. Sonnen has talked himself into a title shot he doesn’t deserve.
He hasn’t won a fight in the light heavyweight division since 2005 making him as relevant a challenger as Vitor Belfort, probably less so since Belfort was a former champion at least. Worthy or not, Sonnen will make this one of the most highly anticipated UFC events of 2013. Jones didn’t feel Sonnen deserved a shot at his belt. He might feel differently when he sees where his bank account stands after receiving his cut of the PPV buys this fight will generate.
Deserve is such a relative term when combining sports and entertainment, which is the fine line the UFC is walking by pairing these two together. Sonnen is entertaining and a challenger that may have come knocking on Jones’ doorstep through a natural fight winning progression. That the UFC rushed this fight to the front of the line speaks to Sonnen’s immense ability to generate eye balls.
The UFC and FOX relationship
If FX and FOX are already happy with what TUF is producing ratings-wise they will be ecstatic when they see how much better it can be when Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen are involved.
The Ultimate Fighter 17: The fighter with the gift of gab against a fighter with a gift for guffaws.
How must Dan Henderson feel right now? Hendo is 41, running on the last legs of his career and now must watch his buddy Chael Sonnen leapfrog him in the pecking order at light heavyweight.
Every fight takes something out of a fighter and now Henderson must tax his body fighting at least one more fight before he can see his name next to Jones’ on a poster with the words "light heavyweight title fight" above them.
Remember when Dana White claimed Machida was a man possessed and that nobody wanted a UFC title shot more than him?
In fact, remember when UFC on FOX 4 was supposed to produce the next opponent for the Jones-Henderson winner?
Forrest Griffin no longer has an opponent at UFC 155.
Stephan Bonnar, should he want to continue fighting professionally, may view Griffin as the only fight that could get him to do so.
If both parties are willing this could be a fight the UFC makes as the new co-main event for the end-of-year show featuring a heavyweight title fight between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez.
So much for that whole Jon Jones-Anderson Silva mega-fight everyone was looking forward to.
If Jones-Sonnen is scheduled to happen in April that means a Jones-Silva fight wouldn’t happen until late 2013 at the earliest. By that time Silva will have celebrated his 38th birthday. Who knows what the landscape of the UFC’s divisions will look like this time a year from now.
Not to mention Jones might not even be able to cut to 205 in a year’s time if his body continues to grow as everyone expects. This time last year we thought Georges St-Pierre would be taking care of Nick Diaz and beginning his bulking up process to fight Silva.
Now if a Silva-GSP fight were to materialize it would feel like a sad consolation prize.
Speaking of St-Pierre, he would seem to be the likely next opponent for Silva assuming the UFC is still planning on putting together a big stadium event in the first quarter of 2013.
If it’s not going to be Jones-Silva at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas it would have to be Silva-GSP, right?
These are the three guys that have put some distance between themselves and the rest of the UFC middleweight division.
Silva won’t be fighting Jones. Silva might fight GSP but that’s going to depend a lot on GSP’s stance on fighting larger men.
Silva may get stuck with the most boring of his options; defending his UFC middleweight title.
If St-Pierre accepts a bout with Silva that would give the UFC time to put the winner of Weidman-Boetsch in against Bisping and determine a true number one contender at 185 pounds.
If not, Bisping would be marketable and Weidman has done enough campaigning that his name is more recognizable than it was six months ago.
Rua and Gustafsson are scheduled to fight in December in what was thought to be a number one contender’s fight.
Should the winner of that fight be deemed a title challenger that person won’t be fighting for a very long time because of today’s announcement.
Texeira and Cormier both have unfinished business to take care of before they can be considered a threat to Jones.
Having additional time allows the UFC not to rush either of them into a title fight, a great thing for Cormier who is after all still a heavyweight.
Teixeira needs to beat a top light heavyweight before he can become a real marketable challenger and Cormier needs Strikeforce to get its act together so he can finish his obligation with that organization.