With yesterday's revelation of The Ultimate Fighter's (TUF) worst ratings in the reality show's 16 season history, it's no big surprise the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made a drastic move with today's announcement that UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones would be defending his title against recent two-time failed middleweight title challenger Chael Sonnen.
Sonnen, after all, has been talking trash to Jones for months now on twitter ever since his dreams of becoming a champion at 185 pounds were dashed by a devastating knee to the chest courtesy of Anderson Silva.
The Republican ex-realtor was even willing to fight Jones on eight days' notice for the title to save UFC 151, although "Bones" declined the offer, a decision that sparked a chain reaction which eventually led to the event's cancellation.
So why now?
In terms of pay-per-view draws, both Jones and Sonnen are likely top five. Jones for his incredible in-cage ability and Sonnen for his spectacular talents outside the cage, brazenly confident with his words and being the ultimate entertainer.
That being said, this move reeks of desperation.
Dana White has time and time again defended the UFC by stating that they get the best fighters in the world to fight each other. This move, hands down, is not the case. Maybe on short notice, a fight like Anderson Silva vs. Stephan Bonnar or Vitor Belfort vs. Jon Jones makes sense as an emergency fill-in, but this is unacceptable. Instead of a short notice replacement, this fight will get a solid six months of build-time.
Chael Sonnen does not deserve a title shot of this magnitude. Not even close.
What has he done, other than insult Jones? He certainly hasn't proven it in the cage. Chael Sonnen hasn't fought at light heavyweight since UFC 55 over seven years ago when he was choked out in the second round by Renato Sobral. Sonnen's career record at 205 pounds was 14-7-1. His biggest victories in the class were over ex-UFC fighters Jason Lambert and Jason Miller.
He never even got a chance to earn this opportunity as his upcoming fight against former champion Forrest Griffin at the end of the year has been scrapped.
Let's let Jon Jones speak for himself on the matter. This is what he had to say about why Sonnen didn't deserve the fight just six weeks ago (via MMA Fighting):
"[Sonnen] has a 5-6 record in the UFC and lost his last two [title] fights. Why would I put a world championship on the line against a very dangerous opponent but one who hasn't even remotely earned the right to consider himself to be in the position to fight for the world title? That's like winning the jackpot and I refuse to be anybody's jackpot... I clearly said that I would not allow Chael Sonnen to jump the line by using his mouth. And what was he doing? Jumping the line by using his mouth."
It's not like the UFC is starving for light heavyweight contenders. Jones' originally scheduled UFC 151 opponent Dan Henderson just turned 42 years old and he doesn't likely have a long window to get his last big shot at the belt. Lyoto Machida supposedly earned a shot with his impressive knockout of Ryan Bader and it was recently reported that December's Mauricio Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson fight could be for number one contender.
Why make these four men sit on the sidelines while a trash-talking bloated middleweight gets to jump to the front of the line? Is The Ultimate Fighter really so important that the UFC needs to sacrifice its integrity?
The answer, of course (as it always is), is money.
The social media impact is already immense. Twitter is buzzing, "TUF" is trending for probably the first time ever and the UFC executives' eyes are already filling with dollar signs. Sonnen will talk his talk and the fight is practically guaranteed to do big numbers.
But it's setting a bad precedent.
No longer do you need to be the best in the world. You just need to sell the most pay-per-views. You need to be the loudest and brashest.
The UFC was built on the principles of "the best fighting the best," whether it was a one night tournament to decide the ultimate fighter or two legends like Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell waging war against each other for supremacy of their division.
Those two men were the original coaches of The Ultimate Fighter. They're probably rolling their eyes today.