Chael Sonnen was on hand at UFC 165 to witness the epic battle between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson in person. Like many in attendance, Sonnen called it for the challenger, although he adds it was so close that the decision is tough to dispute.
“I had Gustafsson, but I do not dispute the decision,” Sonnen said on a recent appearance on The MMA Hour. “It was very close. It could’ve gone either way. Perhaps if I re-watched it, I’d have a different answer. But when the fight was over, I did think we were going to hear, ‘And new UFC champion.'”
Even though Gustafsson came in as a heavy underdog to nearly topple the champion, Sonnen was most impressed with how Jones handled himself under pressure.
“I did think we were witnessing history,” he added. “And I did think that Jon would shut down and wilt, and he didn’t at all. Do I respect him even more now? Yes.”
“Those elbows and the spinning elbows, and the step-in and the lead elbows that Jon landed, you can’t practice those. Jon can hit mitts and he can throw those at the air, but the only time you can actually throw those at a target is in a fight. If you do that stuff in practice you won’t have any partners. You’ll put ‘em out. So for Jon to be that spot-on, that accurate while his eye is bleeding, while he’s physically exhausted, while he’s stressed and worried about losing his championship, and to still keep finding that target, was really quite remarkable from an athletic standpoint.”
Chael may have had some high praise for Jones and Gustafsson, but he wasn’t so kind to his new unofficial rival, Wanderlei Sonnen.
“Wanderlei’s version is, ‘I’d really love to do it, but the UFC just hasn’t offered it to me.’ But anyone who believes the UFC hasn’t offered tried to put on this colossal mega-fight between two guys that genuinely disdain each other is more than silly,” Sonnen said. “It’s a level of ridiculousness.
“Am I picking on him? Yeah, I’m picking on him. This dates way back to when he was fighting in Japan. I’m the first guy to ever point out the fact that those were fake, that he wasn’t winning fights in Japan. That he didn’t go 22-0. These were set-up matches, and it pissed him and ‘Cro Cop’ off. But as soon as I said it, other guys started coming out and going, ‘Oh, Chael’s right.’ From Gary Goodridge to Mark Coleman, to Don Frye coming out, ‘Yeah, we were in the back and yeah, these were set-up.’ He’s upset about that, but it doesn’t change the reality of what happened.”