Chael Sonnen Reveals That He Turned Down The First Season Of The Ultimate Fighter
Chael Sonnen (27-12-1 MMA, 6-5 UFC) told MMA Junkie that he turned down a spot on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, which he was promoting the 17th season that he will be a coach for. Here are highlights of the interview, followed by a comment from Jon Jones in which he says he tried out for the program and was turned down.
On turning down The Ultimate Fighter: “When the show very first started, the first coaches ever were my coach, friend, teammate Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell, arguably the greatest light heavyweight ever. In fact, the argument would be between those two: Chuck and Randy. I was just a fan. I watched it as a fan. They asked me to be on the show as an athlete, and I passed on the chance. It was on a different network at that time, but an executive at that office invited me on as an athlete. Then I loved the show. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what it was. I sat down and watched it, and I regretted that decision. I really enjoyed watching it, and all these years later, here I am.”
On how this new season will be different from the past sixteen: “When you see the guys that don’t get into the house – when you see the black belts and the champions and the veterans and the flat-out studs with very incredible resumes that did not get into the house – that’s when you’re going to understand how loaded this bracket is. The No. 1 thing that I’m going to do is we’re going to change the narrative of this show. This is not a frat show, and it is not a reality show. I don’t know how those terms ever got coined. This is a tournament, period. All the way back to the greats – Royce Gracie and Dan Severn and Ken ‘Never Should Have Been in the Octagon in the First Place’ Shamrock – they never went through anything like this. Those guys did a great job. Those guys got me in the sport, the Don Fryes and the ‘Tank’ Abbotts, the real fighters. But it’s nothing like a 32-man tournament. It’s nothing like having to make weight five times, fight five times, have no preparation, not have your coach, not have your team, not sleeping in your own bed – and be expected to win anyway. It’s nothing like that. Somewhere, somebody called this a reality show, and I just don’t get it. So is the Super Bowl. It’s reality, and it’s a show, but I don’t get it. This is real. This is the realest tournament ever. We have a guy that lost his job for taking this opportunity. He’s got a wife and kid, and if he doesn’t win this, he doesn’t know what’s going to happen to him. I could name a few of those stories like that. The sacrifice that these guys are going through to put it all on the line, it’s humbling.”
Jon Jones on trying out for the show: “I tried out for ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ back when I was 20 years old. I remember making it through the first round and then approaching a table to grapple for the second round and having Dana – I think himself, I remember him being at the table – saying, ‘Man, you’re too young. You’re 20 years old, and you have to be 21 to apply for this show, but we’re going to let you roll anyways. But you can’t go much further than this.’ I was like, ‘Alright.’ I was rolling and having a great time, and that was it. That was the end of the scenario.”