Sonnen won't trap Jones with verbal taunts

August, 15, 2012
8/15/12
7:29
PM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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Chael SonnenJosh Hedges/Getty ImagesChael Sonnen's antics and verbal assaults won't work against light heavyweight champ Jon Jones.

Former middleweight top contender Chael Sonnen didn’t just reveal on Tuesday his intention to return to light heavyweight and face Forrest Griffin on Dec. 29, he took it a step further.

Sonnen felt obliged to express his main reason for doing so: to get a crack at current 205-pound champion Jon Jones. And Sonnen did so in his usual disrespectful way.

“Sure, I can go up to 205 and take Jon Jones’ belt away the same as I can take his candy on Halloween; the punk kid, I can snatch it all I want,” Sonnen said Tuesday on Fuel TV. “But there is something to be said in sportsmanship in earning your shot.

“And on the 29th of December I’m going to go through Forrest to do it.”

As everyone knows, when Sonnen sets his sights on a titleholder he does so with venom in his speech. We all saw how he went after middleweight champion Anderson Silva.

He taunted Silva personally and when that didn’t have the desired effect, Sonnen turn his attention to the man’s wife, friends and country of Brazil.

The nonstop verbal assaults worked to near perfection; Silva was so hot under the collar that he jumped at the chance to get Sonnen in the cage a second time -- despite submitting him the first time they met.

It also served to rile up fight fans in a way never seen by UFC officials. And the rematch was a media and financial bonanza.

But after dropping two fights to Silva, it’s clear to Sonnen that no matter how many more wolf tickets he sells a third bite at the middleweight apple isn’t going to materialize.

So Sonnen is taking his talents back to light heavyweight.

But with a crowded landscape at 205, Sonnen can’t count on cracking the top-contender ranks by exacting revenge on Griffin. He must bring something else to the table.

Sonnen, therefore, isn’t arriving empty-handed. He’s brought a suitcase full of taunts and has begun tossing them at Jones.

There’s one major problem: Jones has developed a thick skin.

Sonnen might be the best tongue-wagging, insult-tossing, trash-talking fighter on the planet today, but he’s a Johnny-come-lately to the Jones-bashing show.

The champ has been on the receiving end of some very personal verbal attacks in the past year, especially from former titleholders Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans.

It’s his experience with Evans more than anything that has made Jones nearly immune to verbal attacks. The close relationship they once had forced Jones to look inward and search for ways to ease the emotional pain.

He found it and no one will even get under his skin or inside his head to the point of steering him off course. Luring Jones into a fight with verbal insults simply will not work.

“(Sonnen) the things you say about me absolutely hold no weight,” Jones said on Twitter. “You disrespected Anderson and his country but fought like a child.

“If you’re going to disrespect me out of nowhere, at least disrespect me to my face like a man.”

Jones is a bit ticked off by Sonnen’s verbal antics, who wouldn’t be; it’s why he felt compelled to respond on Twitter. But his mind remains firmly on defeating hard-hitting Dan Henderson at UFC 151 next month.

And there is nothing Sonnen can say or do to change that.

“For everyone who thinks ‘I’m falling into Chael’s game,’ I know exactly what I am doing,” Jones said.

Jones will not fall into the trap that consumed Silva. With Henderson looming he can’t afford to.

"By the way, how long did it take your parents to come up with your name, Jon Jones?" Sonnen said Wednesday on Twitter.

That one stings. And knowing Sonnen it will only get worse.

Good thing Jones has developed thick skin.

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