Story & photos by Anthony Springer, Jr.
If you asked the average MMA fan about Chael Sonnen six months ago, the response would’ve likely been “Who?”
If you also told the casual fan that the previously unknown Oregon fighter would dominate Nate “The Great” Marquardt, laughter might have ensued.
At UFC 109, the casual fan got a very real introduction to the man running for public office in his home state and Marquardt found himself on the receiving end of a beat down.
In the run up to the co main event bout, Sonnen believed in himself when it appeared that no one else did. Tough talk aside, even Sonnen was surprised at how the bout turned out.
“I worked out with [Nate] five years ago and I didn’t take him down once,” Sonnen revealed after the fight. “I did not think the fight was going to go that way, but that’s what the difference was.”
Sonnen did more than make up for lost time. He not only took Marquardt down at will, but had his way with the man previously on track for a rematch with current champion Anderson Silva. The hard fought victory was indeed hard fought, Sonnen was pressed to smile or praise himself when discussing the career defining win.
“I’ve never felt this bad— ever. Both knees hurt, my elbows hurt, my head’s bleeding, the inside of my mouth is cut. I feel horrible.
“A lot of my mental preparation was knowing I was going to get beat up tonight, I just had to beat him up worse.”
The only thing that Sonnen found solace in was the fact that his fifteen minute war with Marquardt was behind him.
“That guillotine choke [in the third round] was a miserable, miserable experience as was that entire fight,” he added. “I’m happy it’s over. My last year with this company, I’ve never come out of the Octagon proud of myself. I’ve been relieved. Thank God I don’t have to fight [Jim] Miller again. Thank God, [Yushin] Okami’s done. Thank God I don’t have to fight Marquardt anymore.”
The respect shown to Miller, Okami, and Marquardt did not extend to current division king Anderson “The Spider” Silva. In a recent interview with Yahoo! Sports, Sonnen had less than flattering things to say about Silva as a fighter and a person.
“This is a grown man that’s got earrings. This is a grown man who wears his hat sideways. This is a guy who wears pink T-shirts. This guy wouldn’t make it 12 minutes in my neighborhood. I live in a nice neighborhood and we’d still run him out.”
Sonnen continued his verbal assault at the post fight press conference when he was asked about the April showdown between Silva and Vitor Belfort.
“I hope Anderson wins because I think Vitor is the tougher fighter. If I had to choose between the two, I’m taking the low road and picking the easier opponent for the championship.”
At this point, Sonnen’s comments appeared to go from bravado to certifiable insanity. Conventional MMA wisdom pegs “The Spider” as one of the best fighters in the world—if not the best. However, UFC president Dana White not only confirmed that Sonnen will likely meet the Silva-Belfort winner, but also that Sonnen poses some problems for the champion.
“Chael actually has a very interesting style for Anderson,” White said. “I think that’s a very interesting match up. Whether it’s Anderson Silva or Vitor Belfort, I think Chael’s going to fight for the belt.”
Regardless of who’s hand is raised, Sonnen is expects nothing less than a tough road to the top of the heap. His assessment of the UFC’s talent pool also brought about a parting shot at one of the organization’s newest competitors.
“If you want to get to the top of the card in the UFC, you’ve gotta fight tough guys,” Sonnen said. “If you want to be a fighter, get in the cage and be a big deal at your local strip club, go to Showtime.”
And that, ladies and gentleman, is fight promotion 101 courtesy of the middleweight division’s newest star, Chael Sonnen.