After a pair of losses to 185-pound king Anderson Silva, Sonnen announced Tuesday on UFC Tonight on Fuel TV that is jumping to light heavyweight and will fight Forrest Griffin on Dec. 29 in Las Vegas.
UFC president Dana White confirmed the move with Cagewriter about a half-hour after the show.
"Chael wants to fight at 205," White said. "He felt he had his run at 185 and now he wants to make a run at the title at 205."
Sonnen, the master of trash talk, dumped on light heavyweight champion Jon Jones as he made his announcement. He said though he felt he could win the belt in his first bout in the division, he needed to win a fight in the division to set himself up as a legitimate contender.
As a result, Sonnen will fight Griffin. They met once already, on Sept. 6, 2003, on an International Fighting Championship card in Denver. Griffin won with a triangle choke submission in the first round. Ironically, Sonnen's title fight against Silva at UFC 117, which he dominated for four-and-a-half rounds, ended when Silva got the submission with a triangle.
I could go up to 205 and I could take Jon Jones' belt the same as I could take his candy on Halloween. [He's] a little punk kid, I'd snatch it away all I want. But there's something to be said in sportsmanship for earning your shot. And on the 29th of December, I'm going to go through Forrest to do it.
The bout is intriguing on a number of levels. Though Sonnen was nearly 230 pounds a month before he fought Michael Bisping in January, Griffin is the naturally bigger man.split-decision win over Tito Ortiz at UFC 148 in July -- a win over him still carries significance.
"If he can beat Forrest, he'd be on his way [toward title contention]," White told Cagewriter. "Forrest has some good wins and he's an ex-light heavyweight champion. He has awesome credentials. Forrest is a big guy, a real big guy, and that will be a big test for Chael."
Jones will defend his championship at UFC 151 on Sept. 1 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas against Dan Henderson.
If Jones survives that fight, there are no logical contenders. White awarded the next title shot to Lyoto Machida after Machida knocked out Ryan Bader in Los Angeles on Aug. 4. Jones, though, has already beaten Machida.
Sonnen would inject a bit of life into the division. And though Jones would be a heavy favorite against him, Sonnen's wrestling would probably at least ensure that Jones wouldn't be able to easily take him down and beat him up with the vicious elbows for which he's become known.
First, though, Sonnen has to get through Griffin, whom he lavished with praise on UFC Tonight.
Since becoming friends and competitors with him, I've also become a fan. I watched him win the world championship. I watched him etch his name in stone as a guaranteed future Hall of Famer.
If Sonnen wins, he'd be in the mix for a shot in early 2013. What that would mean for Griffin's future isn't nearly as clear. White declined to say he'd force Griffin to retire as an active fighter should he lose, but the UFC president has raised the topic before.
White would likely do with Griffin what he did with Chuck Liddell, the ex-light heavyweight champion who kept getting knocked out in his final few fights. White publicly urged Liddell to retire and then gave him a front-office job with the UFC. He'd like do the same thing with Griffin.
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- Forrest Griffin
- Chael Sonnen
- Jon Jones
- Anderson Silva