UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, left, will defend his title Saturday… (Steve Snowden / Getty Images;…)
Chael Sonnen has been in Jon Jones’ ear for more than seven months now.
Saturday night, the entertaining Ultimate Fighting Championship title contender will meet the organization’s dominant light-heavyweight champion face to face.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to end this chapter of my career,” the 25-year-old Jones (17-1) said this week before his fifth title defense, a pay-per-view bout at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. “It seems like this fight has been scheduled for a year and he’s been in my constant shadow.”
Less than two months removed from his second-round knockout loss to UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Sonnen (28-12-1) volunteered to replace the injured Dan Henderson before Jones opted to back out of headlining that September fight card in Las Vegas.
The UFC promptly assigned Jones and Sonnen as coaches of the reality television series “The Ultimate Fighter,” matching the good-natured but businesslike Jones against the chatterbox Sonnen.
“I’ve got my strengths and he’s got his,” Sonnen said in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times this week. “I’m never, ever going to shut my offense off. He may have an answer for it, but I don’t consider all of his skills when I’m preparing for a fight.
“I want the title.”
Jones said he expects that wrestling-schooled Sonnen “would like to take me down and hold me there until time runs low,” each round in order to win the fight.
“We’re both here to entertain the fans,” Jones said. “I have a concrete conviction to be champion for several years.”
Jones said he aspires to headline the UFC’s first card at New York’s Madison Square Garden later this year if the state finally allows mixed martial arts fighting, and then possibly move to heavyweight for a “super-fight” against the division’s champion.
Being 11 years younger with a three-inch height advantage and the ability to land an array of kicks and strikes, Jones obviously wants to stay on his feet during the bout.
“I’m going to throw him down and beat him up,” Sonnen said. “I know this is the No. 1 guy in the world, but I have courage no one else does. I practice every day. And every day is one step closer.”
In two fights against Silva, Sonnen squandered a points lead by getting submitted in the fifth round of their first bout, then in July, after again taking Silva down in the first round, Sonnen was hammered by a knee to the chest in the second and saw the title slip away again.
“I had to learn from that fight,” Sonnen said. “I beat Anderson up for 30 minutes and he beat me for 30 seconds.”
Sonnen dismissed the notion that he talked his way into this title shot, arguing he’s been a top-10 fighter in various UFC pound-for-pound rankings for years, has nearly twice beaten Silva and claims he’s the second-most marketable UFC fighter behind Georges St-Pierre, accepting an $8-million check after the Silva fight.