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Chael Sonnen: “Whoever Wins Between Us Is The World’s Best Middleweight”

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Chael Sonnen returns to the UFC this Saturday night after an eventful stay in the WEC.  After outpointing a seemingly confused Paulo Filho in his last WEC bout, Sonnen now takes on submissions ace Demian Maia at UFC 95, in a fight Sonnen swears will determine who the world’s best middleweight is.  That other guy, the one wearing the belt?  He’s not bad either, according to Sonnen, but whoever wins this fight is the real top dog.  At least, that’s the story Sonnen’s telling in our exclusive talk with him, which is sometimes surprising, but never boring. Thanks for talking with me, Chael.  What’s it like to come back to the UFC again?  Does it feel like it did the first time you fought in the big show?

No, it doesn’t, and thank goodness.  The first time I was in the UFC I really felt that weight on me, and I think it had a negative effect.  It was exciting, but I think in a negative way.  It might have created an atmosphere that made me a little apprehensive, but it’s not like that this time, and I’m very glad.

Leaving the WEC as you did after that strange fight with Paulo Filho, do you feel like you went out on a bad note?

Well, I’d have to watch the fight again.  I don’t remember it extremely clearly.  I know that right after the fight I had a bad feeling.  It wasn’t the type of match that I’d ever been in before.  It was a weird experience and it kind of left me with a strange feeling.  But as time has gone on, looking back, there are plenty of positives for me to take away from it, and that’s what I remember now.  I don’t remember too much of the bad stuff.  But I do remember the upside, competing hard, having a good gameplan, and beating a guy that no one had ever been able to beat.  Looking back there are more pluses for me than there were immediately after the fight.

So were you aware of how oddly he was acting during the fight?

No, I wasn’t.  The entire time I thought it was a trick or a trap.  I thought he was playing possum.  There was never a time in that fight where I was comfortable or relaxed.  I was on my toes the whole time waiting for something.  I really thought he was setting something up.

By showing up to fight in that condition, do you feel like he robbed you of the chance to have a real rematch and claim the title as the true WEC middleweight champ?

Well, to take his title, when he didn’t make weight, you know, there went that.  Rules are rules.  But as far as did it take away a real chance to beat him, no.  He didn’t come in to that fight with anything wrong with him.  He stated that, his manager stated that, his trainers stated that.  He came in to the fight at 100%.  I took him out of that fight in the first couple of minutes.  

He was very set on getting a takedown, and he couldn’t get it.  He was very set on working on the ground, and the fight didn’t stay there long.  He got frustrated and cracked during the fight, not coming in.  I know a lot of people have tried to let him off the hook, maybe acting like there was something up when he walked to the cage, but there wasn’t.  Even according to him, he got in there at 100%.  I broke him.

Now you’re going against another good jiu-jitsu fighter in Demian Maia.  What are expecting from him and how do you plan to deal with his dangerous submissions?

Both good questions, and I don’t know that I know the answer to the second one yet.  I’m still formulating a plan to deal with all his abilities.  What do I expect out of him?  Probably to see a little more than we’ve seen so far.  He’s very good at what he does, but I think he’s got more skills than he’s shown.  You just go back to the fights he’s had and he looks like a pure jiu-jitsu guy.  I think he has more tricks in his bag, he just hasn’t had to use them.  He’ll have to use them against me.  He’ll have to bring out more techniques on his feet.

Does that mean your goal is to keep the fight standing the entire time?

No, I’ve watched his tapes and I know I’m just not going to be able to avoid the ground.  He’s the only guy in this sport who is willing to take the bottom position.  He’ll grab you and pull you on top of him.  Anybody else who goes for a takedown wants to end up on top.  He’s content to have a takedown where he ends up on bottom.  That creates a tremendous problem as far as keeping off the ground.  There’s no way to avoid it when a guy is willing to do that.

When you do get there, will you fight him there, or just try and stand back up and avoid ground fighting as much as possible?

I’m not going to have a choice but to get into some ground fighting with him.  I guess that’s what I’m trying to say.  I would be lying to myself, giving myself some false hope if I thought I could avoid that.  A guy who’s willing to end up on top on bottom is going to get it to the ground eventually.  I’m not necessarily going to get to choose the realm we fight on.  I accept that.

Did you bring in any jiu-jitsu specialists to help you specifically prepare for Demian?

No, I was helping Matt Lindland get ready to fight Vitor Belfort, so I’ve only been focused on Demian Maia for the last couple of weeks.  I didn’t bring anybody in, just the guys at [Team] Quest.  The same guys I always work out with.

If you beat Maia, do you think you’ll have earned a shot at Anderson Silva?

As far as earning a shot goes, I’ve done as much as anyone to actually earn a shot.  I think this is the fight for the true best middleweight out there.  I think I can beat Anderson [Silva] and I think Demian Maia can beat him.  I think whoever wins between us is the world’s best middleweight.  

But being the best and being champion are two different things.  So does it put me in a spot where, if Zuffa wanted to give me that opportunity, they could?  Of course.  They could give it to me right now if they wanted to.  You’d have a tough argument to say whoever wins this fight shouldn’t go right in to take on the champion.  But there’s other guys out there who are doing a good job as well.

You say you think you and Maia are both better fighters than Anderson, but he’s at the top of a lot of people’s lists, people like Dana White, for instance, as the best middleweight and pound-for-pound fighter.  Do you think he’s overrated, or just that you and Maia are underrated?

Well, sure.  Let’s not…well, I’ll avoid that.  But underrated and overrated?  Yeah, there’s spots.  You can’t have two number ones.  Demian and I are both very highly rated.  Anderson has the belt, so he’s up there, and because of that if I had to fill out a list I’d show him that respect and put him at the top.  I’m not attacking Anderson’s rankings, but in my estimation the two best middleweights are myself and Maia.  We’re going to figure out who’s the best and who’s number two on the 21st.


Cagepotato Comments

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jewelny- March 25, 2009 at 12:34 pm
I have to agree with you. Chael Sonnen is a big douchebag. He is however awesome when in the ring.
High Left Kick- February 20, 2009 at 10:01 am
Question to CP:

Did Chael Sonnen know you weren't talkin about XARM's Middleweight Division??
armfarmer- February 20, 2009 at 7:48 am
I don't think it'd be a bigger upset than gsp/serra. Sonnen at least has the edge in one area, gsp SHOULD outclass serra in every aspect of the game plus being a big ww fighting a lw and he still managed to lose. Maybe on paper serra would have the edge in pure bjj, but in mma grappling gsp has a huge overall edge.

Then again after taking a closer look at Sonnen's record, he really doesn't have many quality wins and he's been submitted a number of times. I guess he is a pretty huge underdog.
Anonymous- February 20, 2009 at 7:11 am
he's as fucking crazy as filho when they last fought.
JACKALS76- February 19, 2009 at 10:16 pm
OK, you got me there .... Cool .. LOL
Keyser Soze- February 19, 2009 at 3:23 pm
Of all the comments, I was most intrigued by armfarmer's. At least there was constructive reasoning behind it, and upsets do happen. But Sonnen over Silva? That would be bigger than St. Pierre vs. Serra 1, and one of the biggest in mma history. The Spider can be taken down, however, the shoot could also be met with a flying knee (Newton), or a triangle choke w/ elbows from guard position (Lutter), and dominant wrestlers (notably Henderson) ended up on the losing end of a rear naked choke.

All in all, Sonnen simply doesn't want any part of a standup war with Siva, and the ground I don't believe is a viable alternative.

Mind you, it'd be one frosty day in hell before those two would ever meet, unless it was like Tyson vs Mitch Green outside a nightclub, which really didn't end well for Green. Poor Sonnen, welcomed back into a weight class where he has no chance in hell of even being considered a top 5 middleweight.
KimboSlicesofPie- February 19, 2009 at 3:00 pm
Sonnen is going to lose faster than I did to Seth! I was sad about that TKO, I eated some pie to feel better.

-Posting from the city of Japan!
ADW- February 19, 2009 at 2:12 pm
What is Sonnen smoking? Honestly! The guy has to be on drugs to think the way that he does. I hope Maia chokes him and puts him to sleep.
Remsaa- February 19, 2009 at 1:59 pm
Chael = delusional narcissist
carl spackler- February 19, 2009 at 12:57 pm
yeah well, should he face anderson silva, he's going to taste the harsh realization of a leathery mma glove barraging his face like a blizzard...sleep tight sonnen
Anonymous- February 19, 2009 at 12:13 pm
Its kinda funny that this tool shed thinks he has any kind of shot against Anderson Silva
ample- February 19, 2009 at 12:05 pm
Yah Chael your a little delusional buddy, i'd like to say you caught a serious case of Matt Hughes-itis. The guy has to know that Silva would kill him and from the sound of it Chael already knows that Demian Maia will probably win this fight. Who the fuck gives two weeks to a UFC return debut fight against a 2 time world jui jitz champ who's 9-0? "no man, i dindt train any jui-jitsu, that shit is gay as fuck man!" Ammmmmerica fuck yah! Commin to say the mother fuckin day yeah Ammeeeeeeerica fuck yah!
DDJ- February 19, 2009 at 12:01 pm
Sounds like Chael caught the "bat-shit crazy" from Paulo during their fight.
Neo- February 19, 2009 at 11:53 am
This coming from the guy who couldn't knock out a clearly drugged up and dellusional Paulo Filho (whom he lost to a year prior) in the WEC... and now all of a sudden is a "Silva Killer".. comon.. this guy has lost to Jeremy Horn more times than Joe Rogan says "NICE" in one UFC telecast. Wake up Chael.....and step into the real world.
jarhead- February 19, 2009 at 11:29 am
i like Chael, but he's not ready for Silva.
LAS- February 19, 2009 at 11:27 am
Hey Jackals, Sonnen got triangled by Babalu, ya dumb fuck.
DOWEBOY24- February 19, 2009 at 11:05 am
This dude's crazy...Maia's gonna make him squeal just like Babalu made him squeal. That's so disrespectful to make those comments. He has NEVER dominated anyone like Anderson has. This dude is a moron!!!
nippletwist- February 19, 2009 at 10:52 am
anderson silva is the best fighter in the world.

anderson silva would knock chael sonnen out in the first round.

rich franklin would knock out chael sonnen.

dan henderson would knock out chael sonnen.

nate mardquart would probably kick chael sonnens ass.

damian maia will submit chael sonnen.
Dr. Gonzo- February 19, 2009 at 10:52 am
Chael Sonnen is the most dramatic dude there is when he gets submitted. He screamed against Jeremy Horn when Horn had him in an armbar, Filho when he had his arm, and Babalu when he had his ankle. This dude needs to put his Republican homophobia aside and train some BJJ. Maia sub round 1
Perdew- February 19, 2009 at 10:35 am
the way he was talking about the filho fight made it sound like he got raped
Dave- February 19, 2009 at 10:31 am
Easy, people. Jackal76 has done an admirable thing here. He has stepped in front of the bus for a man he used to work with. He thought to himself, "Wow, Chael is taking a lot of flak for coming off as a delusional moron in his interview, I better distract these people with even more blinding idiocy." I think that selflessness deserves some respect. Besides, who are you guys to judge? The Zuffa Bros?
BIG CHRIS- February 19, 2009 at 10:25 am
Jackal-Thank you for your insight here, it is guys like you that we are looking to hear from, you know the guys that arer in the trenches and that are rubbing elbows with the fighters, guys like you and Fat Mark there, you guys that know things that we in the civilian world don't, please keep on giving us this input, and putting us in our place, because we are the dillusional ones here. I mean imagine us not aggreeing that Sonnen is the best MW in the world, and that he doesn't even need to fight the Spider to prove it, all he needs to do is beat Maia, we were way off base, but I feel like with your direction I can see things in a whole new light. Now go and let Fat Mark smother you to death.
Anonymous- February 19, 2009 at 10:22 am
off topic: I don't see any posts about Diego Sanchez. Anybody with an opinion of his fight with Daddy? I'm curious to see if the drastic weight cut hurts his power and stamina.
Bas Rutten- February 19, 2009 at 10:21 am
"I didn’t bring anybody in, just the guys at [Team] Quest. The same guys I always work out with."

Thats a mistake unless your name is Dan Henderson.
Unemployed Ninja- February 19, 2009 at 10:16 am
OMG...this guy is seriously a mess in the head. I'm guessing he would be like +400 against Anderson, maybe more, but in his head he would think that vegas doesn't know what they're talking about.

Sonnen I used to support you because you are from my home state. But now every time I hear you speak it makes me want to vomit. It's gone beyond retardation, you sir have gone bat shit crazy, and that is an insult I usually only use on women.

I hope Maia rips your dick off so you can't reproduce.