Chael Sonnen made no apologies Wednesday about gaining the next title shot against Ultimate Fighting Championship light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
“So what if I talked my way into it,” Sonnen said during a UFC conference call that also included Jones and UFC President Dana White a day after the April 27 bout was announced.
“Welcome to life. ... None of these guys” complaining “wanted to fight Jon Jones. Not one of these guys said, ‘I’ll fight Chael.’ And I have no problem taking a tune-up fight, and slapping any of those guys around. ... I can talk. I talked a cat out of a tree today. Good for me. Chalk one more up for the bad guy.”
The quick-witted, occasionally sharp-tongued Sonnen, 35, was subjected to some ridicule by mixed martial arts fans and UFC fighters for landing the lucrative assignment of fighting Jones and participating as the opposing coach to Jones in the next version of the FX reality television series “The Ultimate Fighter,” which will begin shooting later this month in Las Vegas.
Sonnen lost his last bout, a middleweight title shot against longtime champion Anderson Silva.
Temecula’s Dan Henderson, who was scheduled to fight Jones on Sept. 1 before suffering an injury, expressed frustration on his Twitter account that he was bypassed by Sonnen for Jones’ next fight.
“I guess I should just quit training to win fights and to be exciting for the fans, and just go to ... talking school,” Henderson wrote.
Former light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida won an August bout at Staples Center that was supposed to make him Jones’ next opponent, but Machida balked at fighting Jones in September.
Likely sensing a ratings winner starring the UFC’s most skilled fighter against its most personable challenger, an FX executive announced on Wednesday’s call that the cable network will shift “The Ultimate Fighter” off Friday nights to another weekday evening when the series debuts in early January.
The 25-year-old Jones (17-1) successfully defended his light-heavyweight belt for the fourth time Sept. 22 with a fourth-round submission of veteran Vitor Belfort.
Jones’ right arm was badly twisted by a first-round armbar, however, and he said a recent visit to a Los Angeles physician revealed “tears” around the elbow that require physical therapy and a layoff from MMA training.
He said for that reason, and the fact he was irked by criticism he received for not accepting Sonnen as an opponent after Henderson’s injury -- the UFC then took the unprecedented act of scrapping its Sept. 1 card at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas -- a Sonnen fight made most sense.
“Beating Chael will help me to have closure of this whole situation,” Jones said. “I absolutely know I can beat Chael, with my skill-set, youth, my versatility. I’m a championship fighter and Chael is not.”
During the conference call, Sonnen and Jones gave a glimpse of the banter that will continue through “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Sonnen (28-12-1) said while Jones is “the best fighter I’ve ever seen,” he hasn’t defeated a worthy challenger, even though Jones’ victories have come against former champions Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Machida, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Rashad Evans.
“He hasn’t beat anybody until he beats me,” said Sonnen, whose greatest performance in the octagon was his near upset of Silva in 2010. “I’m the man. And I’m the man because I say I’m the man.”
Answered Jones: “This has nothing to do with the belt. Chael’s not getting close to the belt. It’s about putting him into irrelevance.
“Chael’s an interesting guy. I respect how he gets what he wants, all except championships. He’s a good talker, good for the sport. Extremely disrespectful. But I’ll be doing Chael and a lot of people a favor, showing he has a gift for gab, but not athletic talent.”