Morning Report: Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen, and the shrinking divide between sport and entertainment

Jonathan Ferrey - Getty Images

Isn't it funny, the way these things work out. The fight that caused a legendary public firestorm, and only came into existence as a last-ditch attempt to save the UFC from historic failure, has now been tapped to rescue Zuffa's hallmark series from fading into obscurity. It doesn't matter that the match-making doesn't make any actual sense. We all see this for the thinly-veiled money grab it is.

It's no coincidence that Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen was announced immediately after The Ultimate Fighter's ratings hit a dreadful all-time low. This is the fight business incarnate, with an emphasis on ‘business.' TUF is a vital asset for the UFC, and after a revolving door of middling coaches and tumbling ratings, Jones-Sonnen is one last chance to test the series' viability or see if it's actually jumped the shark. If a pair of massive draws can't revive fading viewership, it's time to pull the plug.

But the more troubling aspect of this -- or compelling, depending on how you look at it -- is the complete abandonment of any sense of order or fairness in the pursuit of the vaunted dollar. That's what has everybody so rightfully up in arms. Other than being a top draw by virtue of his brilliant marketing skills, Sonnen has no legitimate claim to the position he now finds himself in. Yes, it's a business. But it's also a sport. Or, at least, it's supposed to be.

Jones-Sonnen is fascinating for a number of reasons, and I'd be lying if I said I won't be watching. But if the last three opponents for your top-two champions are overmatched fighters from different weight classes, then you forfeit the right to gruffly preach about how you always book the most competitive fights. Deal?

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5 MUST-READ STORIES

Jones, Sonnen to coach TUF. UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and former middleweight contender Chael Sonnen will serve as coaches on the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter, after which, Jones will defend his belt against Sonnen on an April 27 pay-per-view. Filming for the season, which features aspiring middleweight fighters, begins Oct. 29 in Las Vegas. The Los Angeles Times first broke the story.

Griffin responds. Chael Sonnen's initial UFC 155 opponent, Forrest Griffin, responded to news of the switch by simply stating, "I'm not mad at him. Why fight your way to the top when you can talk your way to the top."

Jones' injury a sprain. The official diagnosis for Jon Jones' arm injury is a sprained ligament in his right elbow. Jones, who injured the arm fighting off a Vitor Belfort armbar attempt at UFC 152, will undergo physical therapy while taping TUF 17.

Pettis' injury omits him from TUF. Lightweight contender Anthony Pettis missed out on a TUF 17 coaching gig opposite Donald Cerrone due to complications recovering from shoulder surgery. A frustrated Pettis said he hopes to return to action in January.

Jones significant favorite. To no one's surprise, Jon Jones opened as a massive betting favorite over Chael Sonnen, with some sportsbooks listing Jones as high as a 7-to-1 favorite.

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MEDIA STEW

We posted this promo last month, but it's never been more relevant than it is this morning.

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Just something to fulfill your monthly quota of seeing Tim Kennedy in a loin cloth.

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A career in motivational speaking is clearly not in BJ Penn's future.

(HT: MiddleEasy)

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Lesson learned: Never rely on the groin grab.

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Mike Goldberg is a nice guy, but an awful lot of strange stuff comes out of his mouth sometimes.

(HT: Bloody Elbow)

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This poll was just added to Fedor Emelianenko's official Facebook page. Not saying it means anything. Just saying.

Fedorpoll_medium

(HT: MiddleEasy)

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THAT WAS FAST

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REACTIONS

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MEANWHILE, AT JACKSON'S

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LOW BLOW

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THE BRIGHT SIDE

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FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

Announced yesterday (Tuesday, October 16, 2012):

  • UFC 155: Chael Sonnen (27-12-1) vs. Forrest Griffin (19-7) cancelled
  • UFC: Jon Jones (17-1) vs. Chael Sonnen (27-12-1) booked for April 27, 2013

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FANPOST OF THE DAY

Today's Fanpost of the Day comes from an incredulous Josh Hall, who writes: Kill TUF With Fire? Nah, Let's Give up the Credibility of the Light Heavyweight Title to Save it Instead

The Ultimate Fighter was the catalyst that sparked the massive growth in MMA. In 2005, a slew of new fans were born when they saw Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar battle tooth and nail for 3 rounds in what was probably the most influential fight in the history of the sport. TUF was a ratings bonanza for the UFC initally, airing directly after the WWE's Monday Night Raw, and keeping a large percentage of those viewers.

It was a source for free MMA fights early on, which were not as easy to find seven years ago, and the early seasons were filled with quality fighters. 7 members of the first TUF season would go on to compete for either UFC, WEC, or Strikeforce titles, with Forrest Griffin making it to the top of the sport with his controversial upset victory over Quinton "Rampage" Jackson to win the LHW title on July 5, 2008.

The only downside early on to the new reality show was the actions of many of the cast members during the taping. The show quickly became less about the fighters' training, and more about the drama that went on in the house. Fans who watched the first season of TUF will remember the classy actions of Chris Leben, pissing on the pillow of Jason Thacker because he thought it would be funny. In the seasons that followed it became painfully obvious that this was what the UFC wanted, as there was always at least one fighter on each season guaranteed to cause drama in the house.

Drama=Ratings, at least until the bubble burst. Good fighters eventually stopped trying out for the reality show, because the contract for the winner was quite frankly a bad one, and there were plenty of other options for up and coming fighters to get their names out there. Ironically, the massive success of TUF played a major role in it falling apart. With increased popularity came more organizations, which led to more money for fighters because they had options to choose from. The increased opportunities made going through TUF a bad business move for genuine prospects, which led to the decline in talent.

The UFC has tried a number of format changes to keep the series a viable one, including a Comeback season (that led to the greatest upset in UFC history when Matt Serra defeated Georges St. Pierre at UFC 69 for the WW title), multiple overseas editions of the series, having fighters have to win a fight to get in the house, and an all heavyweight season including Kimbo Slice of backyard brawling fame in a last desperate attempt for ratings. Even a season of airing the episodes live and a move from Spike to FX could do nothing to generate interest. The proverbial shark has been jumped, and fans are no longer interested in the product.

The past week looked to be the final nail in the coffin for the series, as the ratings continued a free fall that has become a disturbing trend ... However, the UFC clearly has no plans to let TUF die a natural death. The booking of Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen as coaches might give them a one season reprieve, but they won't be coaching every season from here on out. What crazy measures will be taken next to save the series?

Legitimate contenders are being put on the back burner so a MW coming off a loss can fight for the LHW title, all to save a reality show in its 17th season that no one has cared about since season 5. Think about that.

Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me on Twitter @shaunalshatti and we'll include it in tomorrow's column.

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