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Chael Sonnen ‘not trying to be a dick’ but doesn’t see point of Tony Ferguson vs. Li Jingliang fight

It’s not often that Chael Sonnen criticizes UFC matchmaking, but he’s willing to make an exception for one of UFC 279’s marquee fights.

Following the announcement that Tony Ferguson is moving up to the welterweight division on short notice to meet Li Jingliang for the Sept. 10 pay-per-view, “The American Gangster” stopped by The MMA Hour and made it clear that he isn’t a fan of the matchup.

“I don’t like it,” Sonnen said.

“You want to talk about Charles Oliveira and you want to talk about what a big star he is — they say that him versus [Justin] Gaethje was the biggest pay-per-view of the year, not to mention this year had the heavyweight fight between the [interim] champion and the undisputed [champion], and you’re still telling me that Oliveira-Gaethje was No. 1? Oliveira doesn’t exist, that belt doesn’t exist and the story doesn’t exist, if Tony Ferguson — who was up in the loft — had not dropped the ladder down so that Oliveira could climb up it.

“Now we’re going to bring Ferguson back, great story, he’s hanging in there, he’s traded camps, he’s doing things different, and you’re giving him — I don’t know of ‘Leech’ [Jingliang]. I don’t know if that’s his nickname or that’s his name, and I’m not trying to be a dick. I assume you call a guy a leech, like he claims to be — I haven’t the foggiest idea who we’ve got opposite Tony Ferguson or how we’re supposed to pretend that that matters.”

The fight is a departure for Ferguson, a former UFC interim champion and longtime contender at 155 pounds who has fallen on hard times of late. “El Cucuy” has dropped four straight contests since his 12-fight win streak met a violent end in 2020. Ferguson has been finished in two of those four losses, including his most recent effort against Michael Chandler in May, which ended with Chandler scoring one of the most memorable knockouts of the year.

Jingliang, on the other hand, has had an up-and-down road at 170 pounds.

The 34-year-old has gone 2-2 over his past four bouts, losing to Khamzat Chimaev and Neil Magny, but is still known as one of the most dangerous punchers in the division. Each of his past four victories have ended in brutal, bonus-winning knockouts, including his most recent outing against Muslim Salikhov in July.

But Jingliang has largely been a peripheral figure throughout most of his UFC career, and Sonnen simply doesn’t see the logic in giving him a big-name foe like Ferguson.

“If ‘The Leech’ wins, what happens?” Sonnen argued.

“If Tony wins, OK, great — he gets another fight, he holds on to his career. If ‘The Leech’ wins? No, I don’t love it. I don’t love it. I don’t think that should’ve been breaking news. I don’t think there should’ve been a press conference. I don’t think it was worthy. That’s the kind of fight you’d lay out the card and then you’d just mention it.”

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