Chael Sonnen at the UFC 148 Open WorkoutsChael Sonnen has become the master of trash talk to build up fights, but even he has had to give UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones his due, calling him “the best fighter” he’s ever seen… with a qualification, of course.

We’ve seen enough of Sonnen’s shtick by now that it’s what we’ve come to expect when the lights are on and the camera is rolling. It is Chael Sonnen’s public persona; his “American Gangster” character, if you will. But when the lights aren’t shining in his eyes and the microphone isn’t in his face, Sonnen’s true demeanor is in stark contrast to what most people know from his public displays.

There’s been some heat between Jones and Sonnen leading up to their selection as The Ultimate Fighter Season 17 coaches with a showdown in the Octagon in April 2013, but Sonnen’s “American Gangster” stepped aside, if only briefly, during a recent TUF 17 media call, opening the door for Sonnen to give Jones his due.

“I think Jon Jones is the best fighter that I’ve ever seen,” said Sonnen, with no zinger to follow. “If I was to compare him to somebody, I mean, I would put Randy Couture above him, but a lot of that is just out of respect. I don’t believe he’s Randy Couture, but I believe he’s fantastic.

“He’s got techniques; I don’t even know what they’re called.”

Many people that are used to the “American Gangster” taking on most of the public speaking gigs won’t buy that those comments about Jones represent another side of Chael Sonnen shining through, but it does.

The American Gangster, of course, is always lurking, not letting Sonnen out of the shadows for long.

Perhaps reminding Sonnen that the purpose of the call was to hype the Jones vs. Sonnen pairing and build-up anticipation for The Ultimate Fighter, the American Gangster eventually regained control of the situation, not giving Jones too much credit.

“Yes, good for Jon. You know, but look, he needs me and the bottom line is, he doesn’t beat anybody until he beats me. Let’s go down the line: he beat Bader, he beat Shogun, he beat – who’s that glorified Hollywood extra – Rampage, Vitor. I mean, what’s next? He’s going to fight Scott Ferrozzo?”

Sonnen will never admit that he’s got dual personalities fighting for control, and he’s not likely to continue heaping praise on Jones. He’ll likely go the opposite direction, letting Chael out just long enough to sucker Jones in and then give him a full-on dose of the American Gangster.

But hey, isn’t that why we’ve ended up with Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen as TUF coaches with Jones’ championship on the line to follow?

Stay tuned to for all of your UFC news and updates.

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