After extensive speculation, it has been confirmed today that UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will indeed be defending his belt next against former middleweight Chael Sonnen. Not only that, the two men will serve as coaches on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter during the leadup to their bout.
Jones and Sonnen will begin taping the show’s next season on Oct. 29. FX will air that season at the beginning of next year. The two will then fight on April 27 for the title currently held by Jones. No event name or location has yet been assigned to that bout. Sonnen had previously been scheduled to fight Forrest Griffin on Dec. 29, but that fight has now been cancelled and no replacement has been announced yet.
Jones has disposed of every challenger to his belt with little difficulty, with his lone loss a bizarre DQ against a clearly beaten opponent. Sonnen, however, poses a unique threat, especially due to his elite wrestling game. He was able to use it to control middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva for the majority of both their bouts before he was caught in a fifth-round submission in their first fight and by a second-round flying knee in their rematch. Many wonder whether Jones will be able to pull off the same kind of magic against the pressure of Sonnen’s relentless takedowns.
Perhaps even more important to the UFC is the fact that the extensive fan bases of both Jones and Sonnen will likely provide a major boost to the flagging ratings of The Ultimate Fighter. Jones’ uniquely flashy yet dominant style has made him a fan favorite while Sonnen’s undisputed title as MMA’s king of trash talk has made him wildly popular with some and extremely notorious with others. Either way, matching the two up is sure to produce fireworks both on TV and in the Octagon.