Speaking to mixed martial arts writer Jonathan Snowden, UFC veteran Chael Sonnen declared himself the new Light Heavyweight Champion after title holder Jon Jones refused a proposed matchup for UFC 151.
“When I decided to go after the light heavyweight championship, I knew that I’d win it like I always do,” said Sonnen. “I just didn’t know it would be by forfeit. But I do stand before you today the light heavyweight champion.”
After number one Light Heavyweight contender Dan Henderson withdrew from the UFC 151 bout due to a knee injury, Chael Sonnen, who recently made the call to move into the division, requested the fight without hesitation. Jones, however, declined a replacement bout with Sonnen and will remained sidelined until a September 22 title bout with Lyoto Machida.
“I’m in the same position today as I was yesterday,” said Sonnen. “The fight’s going to happen sooner or later. It’s not like I’m not going to beat this guy up. It’s just a matter of when.”
Though Sonnen equates Jones’ refusal to a “forfeit,” he nonethless did not criticize coach Greg Jackson for allegedly advising the champion to pass on the fight. He did, however, remark that fighters with whom he trained like Dan Henderson, Randy Couture and Matt Lindland would fight “anybody, anytime, anywhere.”
During a media call in which Dana White skewered Jones and his camp for their decision and praised Sonnen for his guts, the UFC president noted that Sonnen probably would have had to win three fights against “nasty” opponents to earn a shot at Jones’ Light Heavyweight Championship.
White would not confirm that plan has changed going forward, but given how the Jones-Sonnen situation played out, one has to assume Sonnen might be looking at a quicker path to the title. Assuming nothing falls apart involving Jones and Machida, he is tentatively scheduled to debut at Light Heavyweight against Forrest Griffin in December.