Chael Sonnen dismisses critics of his title shot

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

The masses were angered when Jon Jones declined to fight Chael Sonnen in September and angered again when Jones agreed to face Sonnen in April 2013, after the two finish a coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter.

In the former instance, the hostility was directed at the champion, but in the latter, it has gone mostly in the direction of the challenger and the promotion for their insistence that he best fits the role as top contender.

Those assertions have been a mild annoyance for Sonnen, who many believe is benefiting from his ability to talk up himself and a fight. Sonnen's title fights against Anderson Silva have both been box-office successes, largely due to his gift of gab. He's ended up on mainstream sports outlets like ESPN and sold audiences on his chances enough that they've willingly plunked down their cash.

But asked if that's why he received this opportunity ahead of anyone else in a crowded division, Sonnen dismissed the theory.

"I keep hearing that I talked my way into a fight, and guys, it's true. But the word that I used was 'yes,'" he said on a recent MetroPCS video chat. "When the chance came and they said, 'Do you want to fight?' I said yes. Contrary to what it may look like on TV, [Jones is] pretty darn good, and there's not a lot of guys who want to fight him. And contrary to what the oddsmakers may say, [I'm] pretty good, too, and there's not a lot of guys who want to fight me.

"A lot of guys complain that I got the fight with Jon," he continued. "But not one of those guys said, 'Hey, I want to fight Jon.' Not one of them. And a lot of those guys complain that Jon's fighting me and we're going to be the biggest fight in UFC history, and you're stealing 2013 early. Guys, you didn't call me out? You want to complain that I'm fighting him, but you didn't want to fight me to get to him."

Sonnen's remarks are likely aimed at Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua, both of whom turned down short-notice opportunities to fight Jones.

Not necessarily covered in that mini-rant was his longtime friend and mentor Dan Henderson, whose injury was the first fallen domino that led us to where we are today. Henderson never declined a fight with Jones, and in fact, believed he'd still get a crack at Jones when he got healthy. Instead, he's thrown back into the contenders' pool, likely to have to win at least one more time before hoping for a shot at the belt.

When asked more specifically about Henderson, who recently voiced his objection to Sonnen's leapfrogging of the field with a tweet that read, "giving him that fight [right] now degrades the sport of MMA," Sonnen held back his usually sharp tongue.

"You know what?" he said, "No, I haven't spoke to him. I haven't spoke to Dan. I'll leave it at that."

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