Chael Sonnen knows all about using a “bad guy” persona to sell fights and he thinks it’s time that Jon Jones follows suit.
Reacting to Jones’s most recent arrest—one of several run-ins with the law that Jones has had over the years—Sonnen believes that there’s no reason for the UFC light heavyweight champion to try and act as a role model. In fact, he thinks “Bones” should lean in the other direction and fully embrace the role of a villain, at least in regards to marketing himself to the public.
“I think Jon Jones since his latest arrest, the mask is off,” Sonnen said on Submission Radio (transcription via Denis Shkuratov). “The world’s known he’s a scumbag for a while, but now that he’s finally in touch with just what a dirty guy he is and now he’s putting out interviews, he’s steering into it. Look, from a liveability and civility standpoint, okay, go ahead and question Jon Jones’s character. I’m speaking about from a marketing and promotional standpoint, he’s doing everything right.
“The gig is up, everybody knows. You were on TMZ in handcuffs crying about ‘I want to go home and be with my kids.’ Dude, it’s two in the morning, you’re firing guns while shooting and running donuts in a parking lot drunk on tequila. Your time to be with your—Are your kids even still up, you bum? The fact that he would be that level of a scumbag, just go with it, just be a scumbag.”
Sonnen also commented on the growing rivalry between Jones and UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, which has mostly taken place over social media though the two have made overtures towards a potential superfight in the future. Given the level of heat so far, Sonnen agreed that it could be comparable to his own blockbuster feud with Anderson Silva.
However, as much as Sonnen thinks Jones needs to embrace his dark side, Sonnen doesn’t feel that Jones is equipped to deal with Adesanya in a war of words.
“I gotta tell you, with all due respect, that you’re the first guy to say Jon was ever good on a mic,” Sonnen said when asked to compare Adesanya and Jones’s trash talk capabilities. “Jon doesn’t even know what day it is most of the time, Jon’s really is just looking for the next party. So, you’re literally the first person to ever say that you thought Jon spoke well. But I will tell you, Adesanya brings a fire. I mean, there’s a venom. He practices, he’s rehearsed.
“Jon Jones is not ready for press conferences. And a lot of guys see a dishonour in that, that you should just freestyle and answer the questions that are asked of you. Man, it is no different than any other job interview or any test I’ve ever gone to in my life. If I know it’s test day, I’m gonna study for the test. Adesanya studies for the test. He doesn’t answer the question asked of him, he waits until your mouth’s done moving and then he says whatever the hell he wants. Jon Jones answers questions. Good ones don’t answer questions, they handle questions.”
Sonnen has experience dealing with Jones inside and outside of the cage. The two served as opposing coaches on season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter and then faced off at UFC 159, where Jones retained his title by first-round TKO despite suffering a gruesome toe injury.
While Sonnen’s gift of gab and willingness to fight at the drop of a hat helped him to earn that unlikely light heavyweight title shot, he’s not sure if Adesanya will be able to talk his way into a fight with Jones due to Jones not being a reliable box office draw in Sonnen’s eyes.
“I think that fight is further out than it once was,” Sonnen said. “Don’t forget what’s happened in the last 60 days, largely because of Dominick Reyes, but nobody could sell out an arena fighting Jon Jones. Jon Jones was the worst drawing champion in the organization. That wasn’t Jon’s fault, Jon did everything right. He was getting a little bit of the Roy Jones effect, where he was so good and everybody knew how that movie was going to end, so nobody wanted to buy a ticket to watch it. The reality is, now because of the competitiveness that Reyes showed with him, many people believe that Reyes won, myself included, that all of a sudden it did get a little bit more interesting.
“Now, Jon trying to stay away from Reyes and go over to Blachowicz showing that. I mean, those things work, those are playground rules, but playground rules don’t go away in the pros. And the point I’m trying to make is, Jon had nothing going on. He was talking about going up to heavyweight just so he could get somebody to watch him, he was talking about trying to bring Adesanya to light heavyweight just to get somebody to watch. All of a sudden, the world is different for Jon Jones. Jon now has two great fights between Jan Blachowicz and Dominick Reyes. Who’s he gonna fight next? I don’t know, but I can tell you with confidence, he’s gonna fight both of them.”
Should the day come where Adesanya and Jones do clash in the cage? Sonnen has it for Adesanya all the way.
“Oh, forget it, Adesanya will whip his ass,” Sonnen said.
“Do you think Thiago Santos beats Adesanya? Or do you think that Dominick Reyes beats Adesanya?” Sonnen continued. “I mean, these were really close matches for Jon Jones. I thought he lost both of them. On the 10-9 must system, I thought he lost to Santos too. I’m not bullish on that. I’m not even bullish on the Reyes one. Those were just my opinions. I think that ship has sailed. I think Jon’s tough, I don’t think he’s the greatest of all time. I think that’s Georges St-Pierre. But I do think that Jon Jones would have an argument to the toughest of all time.
“To watch his grit, to watch Jon Jones seeing everything, slip away, and he finds a way to get victory anyway, he finds a way to push through, Jon gets a lot of credit with me. I just think when you’re comparing him to Adesanya, Adesanya’s one. Jones is in a good spot, but he’s still number two.”
Watch Sonnen’s full appearance on Submission Radio below: