What happens when you take the sport's best talker and give him his own show? Nothing spectacular, when he decides to re-invent himself as a serious-minded coach.
If you were planning on tuning in to The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 every Tuesday night in hopes of catching some good old-fashioned pre-fight banter between Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones, I'm sorry to report you're going to be disappointed.
But that's because Sonnen doesn't want their petty squabbles to overshadow what the combat sports reality show is really about, namely the 16 middleweight fighters under their employ, each competing for a six-figure contract and a shot at glory in the ranks of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
But aren't these two supposed to fight?
Indeed. Jones will put his light heavyweight title on the line in the main event of UFC 159, which takes place at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Saturday, April 27, 2013. But we're now four weeks into TUF 17, so where is the Chael Sonnen vs. Jon Jones heat? Why should I be excited to buy this pay-per-view (PPV)?
"The American Gangster" explains (via ESPN):
"Right now what you're seeing, this is Coach Sonnen. Coach Sonnen has no problem with Coach Jones. Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones will eventually get down to business, but we're not there yet. Right now, we're putting the focus and the emphasis on the guys who deserve it. That's the guys representing Team Sonnen versus the fine young men that are representing Team Jones. That's where we're at and we're not going to intermingle the two."
The man who talked his way into a title shot suddenly ... stopped talking.
That's a far cry from the two years Sonnen spent making a mockery of Anderson Silva, which made him one of the most talked about fighters in recent memory, as well as a two-time division number one contender. He failed to overthrow "The Spider" from the 185-pound throne, but established a successful brand that quickly airlifted him to his second consecutive title fight.
Yet somewhere along the way, he abandoned his gameplan.
That could explain why TUF 17 ratings, though impressive, have continued to go down -- rather than up -- over the past three weeks. There are still several weeks left of reality television to get us into the proper mindset, but with just over two months to go until fight night -- and seven major UFC events to focus on beforehand -- the boys will have some catching up to do.
In the interim, let's hope we can get more of this to keep the conversation going.