Jones set to finally defend UFC title vs Sonnen
By DAN GELSTON
AP Sports Writer
No excuses. Jon Jones has had months, not days, to prepare this time around for Chael Sonnen.
That doesn’t sound like good news for Sonnen.
In a bout at least eight months in the making, Jones will defend his light heavyweight championship for a fifth time when he fights Sonnen at UFC 159 Saturday at the Prudential Center.
Jones hasn’t lost since he beat Shogun Rua, also at the Prudential Center, in March 2011 and has established himself 1-2 with Anderson Silva as the best MMA has to offer.
Jones’ reign was besmirched only by his refusal to fight Sonnen on eight days’ notice at UFC 151 in September after contender Dan Henderson was forced to withdraw because of injury. Jones didn’t want to risk his title against a last-minute replacement in Sonnen, so he balked at the fight.
UFC president Dana White was forced to cancel a pay-per-view show for the first time in his tenure, igniting trash talk between White and Jones before tempers mellowed and the promotion’s booming business went on as usual.
Now, it’s time to fight in the octagon. Just how Jones likes it.
“This fight with Chael,” Jones said, “it ties me in with pure peace.”
For all his prowess inside the cage, Jones (17-1) is more mellow when it comes to pushing fights.
Sonnen’s mouth is up there with some of the greats of pro wrestling when it comes to cutting promos. Sonnen’s never met a microphone or camera he didn’t like and has perfected the art of the sound bite to hype his fights, something his critics say has gotten him more title fights than his record.
Sonnen (28-12-1) co-owns a pizza place and named a special pie — topped with chicken — for Jones.
There was a line on the menu that told fans to order fast, “before our chicken runs out and we have to cancel.”
Jones, ahem, wouldn’t bite on a volley.
Focused on his title bout, he refused to return any bulletin-board quotes back at Sonnen. Plus, he doesn’t need to mouth off to push a fight.
“The thought of going home without my belt, it keeps me angry,” Jones said.
Only Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz has been more successful in UFC history at keeping a belt like Jones. Should Jones win, he’d tie Ortiz for most consecutive successful title defenses with five. After beating Rua, Jones went on to beat Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort.
Jones said he’d like to set the record of six straight title defenses around November before crossing weight classes and moving on to a dream fight, perhaps a record-payday bout against someone like Silva.
Sonnen’s last two losses were against Silva, including a competitive five-round bout in 2010 for the middleweight championship. His close calls have kept him in the middle title picture at two weight classes. But after fighting Silva, and scouting Jones, Sonnen said he knows who is the best of the two.
“I think Jon is considerably better than Anderson,” Sonnen said. “Sometimes I hear that I don’t deserve this fight or I’m not the right guy, but then I hear that Anderson could beat him. Well, you’ve got to be kidding me? I stomped Anderson Silva twice.”
Jones and Sonnen coached against each other during the recent season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and gained a new respect for each other.
Well, at least Sonnen did.
“He cared a lot about his team,” Sonnen said. “He took coaching very seriously. He was on time every time. And he inspired a bunch of guys that really needed it.”
Again, UFC will put on a showcase card in New Jersey while it remains locked out of New York.
The New York Senate approved a bill last month to legalize and regulate MMA, the combat sport that includes boxing, judo, wrestling and kickboxing, and most states allow it. The Assembly has blocked the legislation for seven years.
Jones, a former college wrestler and the brother of two NFL players, said he’d love to represent his home state of New York and fight like idols Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson at Madison Square Garden.
Sonnen, who’s mostly heaped praise on Jones, said the fighter known as “Bones” would be a perfect match for UFC’s possible debut at MSG.
“As great as Jon is, I don’t think that he understands how good he is,” Sonnen said. “You know, for him to pay tribute to Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali was a very nice thing for him to do. The reality is Jon Jones could beat up Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali in the same day. And when he says he wants to be the best ever, Jon, news flash, buddy, you are the best.”
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