Chael Sonnen pushes back at critics

Updated: October 17, 2012, 8:58 PM ET
By Franklin McNeil | ESPN.com

Former top middleweight contender Chael Sonnen shot back Wednesday at fighters who expressed disapproval that he has been granted a title shot against UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

"Welcome to life. We don't deserve things, you get what you get," said Sonnen during a media call to officially announce that he and Jones will be rival coaches on next season's version of 'The Ultimate Fighter.'

Sonnen
Sonnen

"And let's understand, not one of those fighters said, 'Hey Dana, I'll fight Chael. Hey Dana, let me prove that I am the No. 1 contender. Let me fight that guy.' Not one of them," he said. "They all sat there and said their little things. But I called everyone one of those bastards out and I'll call them out right now.

"I have no problem getting a tune-up fight and slapping anyone of those guys around, including the karate kid."

Sonnen's last comment was directed at Lyoto Machida. The former UFC light-heavyweight champion was among Sonnen's harshest critics.

"With all respect, but for me, Chael does not deserve the title shot," Machida said Wednesday on Twitter. "I would like to know what he (has) done in (the) light heavyweight division (to) deserve (it)!"

Machida wasn't alone in questioning Sonnen's status as a valid light-heavyweight title contender. Former Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion Dan Henderson also took to Twitter and chimed in on the matter.

"I guess I should just quit training to win fights and be exciting for the fans and just go to (trash) talking school," Henderson said.

Henderson was slated to face Jones on Sept. 1 at UFC 151 in Las Vegas. But he suffered a partial MCL tear that forced him to withdraw from the bout.

UFC president Dana White then offered the bout to Machida, who declined to take the fight on short notice.

Sonnen (17-12-1) then tossed his hat into the mix, agreeing to step in for Henderson and face Jones. But the champion decided against fighting Sonnen on eight days' notice and UFC 151 was canceled.

Jones (17-1) went go on to defeat Vitor Belfort on Sept. 22 at UFC 152 in Toronto. But Jones suffered an elbow injury during the bout that is expected to sideline him until April.

Jones and Sonnen are scheduled to fight on April 27. White said the fight could take place in New Jersey.

"Dan Henderson had the opportunity for the (title) fight; he got injured," White said on the media call. "He got injured, now Jones is injured. Jones is injured until April.

The UFC had looked into holding the Jones-Henderson fight in February, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports, but apparently lingering issues with Henderson's knee and Jones' elbow forced them in a new direction.

"Every one of these guys who is (complaining) about a title shot now were offered the fight and turned it down. They refused to fight Jon Jones.

"Now they are bummed out because Chael stepped up on eight days' notice and he's going to coach 'The Ultimate Fighter' and fight him."

For his part, Jones (17-1) stated he wanted the Sonnen fight after previously resisting the idea.

The 25-year-old champion received a lot of criticism for turning down the initial fight against Sonnen on short notice in September and says he views the pairing as an opportunity to put that experience behind him.

"I'm injured," Jones said. "I have nothing to do but to try to heal, be in Vegas working with some of the best physical therapists I can, put Chael Sonnen behind me and to give the fans what they want. All in one go."

The fight against Jones will be Sonnen's first since July 7, when he was knocked out by middleweight champion Anderson Silva in the second round at UFC 148 in Las Vegas.

Sonnen has not competed at light heavyweight since Oct. 7, 2005, when he was submitted by Renato Sobral in the second round at UFC 55. That fight took place at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn.

Sonnen has promised a close fight with Jones in April. "I've been on both sides of an a-- whipping," Sonnen said. "That's something Jon hasn't. Jon's been very dominant. He's also fought a lot of guys who are timid and afraid to get in a fight. I'm going to walk out there and get in a fistfight."

Information from ESPN.com MMA writer Brett Okamoto was used in this report.

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