By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
The UFC and Spike TV are planning on pitting Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping against one another as coaches on the 14th season of The Ultimate Fighter, according to Dave Meltzer in the latest edition of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
The season, which would film in June and air from September to the beginning of December, would result in a bout between the two in December setting the winner up for a likely title shot in early 2012.
However, it’s not set as of yet and will be dependent on Sonnen getting himself licensed in Nevada. His suspension with the California State Athletic Commission has been completed, but he made things sketchy for himself in Nevada with comments at his CSAC hearing saying he had gotten verbal approval for testosterone replacement therapy from NSAC executive director Keith Kizer.
Kizer vehemently denied that any such conversations or approval ever took place, and it put Sonnen in some hot water with the commission in the UFC’s home state.
Meltzer also reported that the UFC President Dana White, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta and other UFC officials, along with Sonnen, met with Kizer last month in an attempt to smooth the situation over. Sonnen reportedly admitted that he had not had a personal conversation with Kizer, but claimed that instead Kizer spoke with his manager, Matt Lindland, in February 2008. Supposedly that conversation did take place, but Sonnen’s name was not mentioned, and no other steps were taken on Sonnen’s part to get TRT exemption approved in the state of Nevada, despite his contentions to the contrary in his December hearing.
The fact that Sonnen flat out lied on multiple occasions regarding approval of his TRT use from Kizer, and about the conversations he claimed he had with Kizer, makes it no guarantee that he’ll be immediately approved for a license by the commission. Because the show films in Nevada, Sonnen cannot take part as a coach without being licensed by the commission.
But Sonnen’s not the only one facing a possible issue with the NSAC in this situation, as Michael Bisping isn’t out of the woods himself yet. The spitting incident at UFC 127 in Australia could potentially give him difficulties in getting his license in Nevada, though it could simply be a case of needing to explain his side of the incident before his license would be approved.
The UFC and Spike would be hoping to bring ratings up with these two volatile and polarizing fighters featured through 12 weeks of the show, despite the backlash it will most assuredly bring.
Penick’s Analysis: I know the two of them would bring in ratings and interest, and the trash talk between the two would help the fight do good business for the UFC, but I don’t like this move at all. I don’t have a problem with Sonnen continuing to fight in the UFC despite his failed steroid test and his money laundering felony and the crap that he pulled at his CSAC hearing to skirt past his entire suspension, as he’s not the first and won’t be the last fighter to have cheated or to have had run-ins with the law. That said, giving him a spot on the Ultimate Fighter and a high profile fight with Bisping off of 12 weeks of promotion is a wholly unjustified reward to Sonnen that sets a precedent for fighters in the future. If the UFC likes you, it doesn’t matter what you do, short of murder or a prison-worthy offense outside of the sport, if you make yourself into a volatile, controversial figure that can move the needle, they’re going to give you chance after chance after chance. Bisping’s spot on TUF is more forgivable, but he doesn’t need to be rewarded with this exposure either. Putting the fight together is one thing, giving them the promotional push of The Ultimate Fighter is something different entirely, and it’s a bad move. It might draw ratings, it might make them money, but it’s a bad move and a coaching slot neither fighter deserves at this point.