Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones have a complicated relationship, to put it mildly.
Take, for example, a recent exchange between the two former foes.
“The last I heard from Jon Jones was through text message via emoji of a giant middle finger,” Sonnen said with a laugh on a recent episode of The MMA Hour.
“I offered him a match — it was a grappling match [for Sonnen’s Submission Underground promotion] — and I had two for him. One was against [Quinton] ‘Rampage’ [Jackson] or against Tito [Ortiz]. And this was ‘x’ amount of time ago [about a year ago], and I think maybe I even threw a Stipe [Miocic] in there at some point, but I was making him the presentation: ‘Here’s what we’ll do. Here’s what you do.’ That’s what he responded.”
Sonnen and Jones, of course, were rivals at one point in their UFC careers. A feud between the two began in 2012 when Sonnen stepped up on short notice to replace an injured Dan Henderson against Jones at UFC 151. Jones declined the bout, which ultimately led to the cancellation of UFC 151. The promotion then pushed Sonnen and Jones into coaching roles opposite one another on The Ultimate Fighter 17, which culminated in an April 2013 title fight which Jones won via first-round TKO stoppage to defend his light heavyweight belt.
The two have had a hot-and-cold relationship since, with both occasionally taking shots at one another in the media but also aligning when the situation calls for it, such as Jones’ 2016 grappling match against Henderson in Sonnen’s Submission Underground promotion.
Sonnen hasn’t hesitated to criticize Jones during the many rocky chapters of the former UFC light heavyweight champion’s career, but “The American Gangster” also maintains some appreciation for Jones’ particular sense of humor — like the night Jones allegedly mooned Sonnen’s mother mere hours after dominating Sonnen at UFC 159.
“Oh my goodness, this was great,” Sonnen recalled. “So Jon and I fight in New Jersey, and we get done [at] about 2:00 a.m. [and back] from the arena. The fight ends at 1:00 a.m. and I’ve got to get stitches, then there’s a post-fight press conference, so it’s 2:00 a.m., it’s a late night. I’ve got to be in the lobby at 6:00 a.m. the next morning to meet my mother to get to the airport to fly back to Portland. So Jon was up around the clock, and when I get to my mother in the lobby of the hotel at 6 a.m., there’s only my mother and Jon Jones there.
“Jon is wearing nothing but red sweatpants,” Sonnen continued. “He’s got no shirt, no hat, no shoes. When I say nothing, he’s wearing nothing but red sweatpants. And he’s visiting with her, and he’s being very polite. Jon excuses himself, my mother and I get our bags and we’re going to go. Jon takes the elevator up, then he walks out. It was one of those hotels where the doors are on the outside so you can see everything.
“And Jon yells down to her one last time to get her to look up — dropped his pants, mooned her, went into his room and went to sleep. She loved it.”
Speaking on The MMA Hour, Sonnen actually went out of his way to reiterate that final point, lest anyone assume he was throwing Jones under the bus by telling the story.
In his eyes, it was all good-natured fun.
“Some people think that’s rude,” Sonnen said. “My mother loved it. She bragged about that to her bunco group. She put a message on Facebook.
“She still laughs about that to this day, so I don’t want to hear people say that Jon was inappropriate. It was a funny moment. It’s up to my mother to decide. She liked it.”
That being said, Sonnen admitted that his middle-finger emoji exchange is far more emblematic of his current relationship with Jones than any fun-loving post-fight moment.
“I am still upset and annoyed with Jon. I think he would be at me too,” Sonnen said. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t stand back and acknowledge, Jon’s a pretty funny guy.”