How the high and mighty have fallen, Potato Nation.
Just a few days after coming up short (again) against Anderson Silva at UFC 148, the rumors and speculations of what lies in store for middleweight contender Chael Sonnen have already begun to take on a life of its own. And at the forefront of those rumors, is the possibility that we may never see perhaps the greatest fight-hyper in the biz in the octagon again. Now, we aren’t normally quick to buy into retirement rumors that come in the immediate aftermath of a fight, even when they are coming from the fighters themselves. Because, as was the case for B.J. Penn and Jamie Varner, these supposed “retirements” were more or less a way of coping with the frustration that comes with of a string of losses (or in Sonnen’s case, a particularly hard loss to swallow), and were over before most of us compile a “Best of” list for either man. The jury is still out on how long Nick Diaz will hold out, but we’re guessing it will likely coincide with his recent suspension.
But regardless of the semi-thesis statement we’ve just laid before you, the head grappling coach at Xtreme Couture, Neil Melanson, feels that we may have seen the last of Sonnen for now. Melanson took over Sonnen’s UFC 148 training camp after Scott McQuary, Sonnen’s longtime head coach, suffered a heart attack a couple months back, and recently sat down with the ironically-titled Verbal Submission Radio to discuss Sonnen’s future in the sport:
Any time you’re a part of training camp or you’re friends with somebody and they lose, you just worry about them like, how are they gonna handle it mentally? Are they gonna come back from this? You know, I don’t know what Chael’s plans are, but I got a feeling he’s done fighting. I don’t know. I’ve just got a feeling he’s done. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think he was serious when he said, ‘If you beat me, I will leave forever,’ and there’s a very good chance of that.
Melanson is of course referring to the “loser leaves town” match that Sonnen proposed to Silva at UFC 136, an offer that was later retracted in hilarious fashion.
And as understandable as it is to imagine that Chael would be feeling rather hollow after failing to defeat Silva on two separate occasions, despite performing better than any other challenger has against the champ in the process, I would have to say that this would be a huge mistake on his part. Before any of you jump down my throat with claims that I am a “Sonnen nuthugger” or a “Silva hater” as you are apt to do, know this: I am a fan of both Sonnen and Silva, for entirely different reasons.
Yes, I wanted Silva to win on Saturday night, if only to end the smorgasbord of ridiculous claims that have constituted Sonnen’s career over the past two years, but there is no denying that the Gangster from Oregon is still a threat to everyone in the middleweight division. In both his fights with Silva, Sonnen dominated early and often, only to have a simple mental error lead to his undoing. Surely his spinning backfist attempt at UFC 148 was the more glaring of the two, but Sonnen’s presence in the middleweight division is almost a necessity. And besides, who else can cut a promo as awesome as this? No one, that’s who.
The fact remains that Silva has absolutely decimated all challengers to his throne, and, minus a couple of legit challenges he may face down the line (not you, Mr. Bisping), Sonnen was the only man to, as CrushCo so brilliantly stated, make us believe he could actually beat Silva. And to be fair, there’s a good chance that Sonnen could do so if he stuck to and never deviated from the takedown and GnP oriented offense that saw him dominate Silva in the first round of their fight last Saturday. I place a lot of emphasis on the if.
But according to Melanson, whether or not Sonnen will truly call it quits is a matter of his mental toughness when dealing with such a hard loss:
I never met anyone that had a scenario where it’s like, ‘If I don’t win this then I’m done,’ it never worked out positive for them because, just in my experience, you have to love the grind and if you love the grind, eventually you’ll get what you want because you give up what you need to give up. Apparently Chael had his limit like, ‘This is it, I’ve had enough. If I don’t win this then it’s all not worth it.’ Having lost that, yeah, there’s a very good chance he could pursue other things. He’s a very smart guy, very well spoken. I know, whether he’ll admit to it or not, he has a lot of passion to be a broadcaster of sorts. He seems to excel in any type of speaking arrangement. He loves doing interviews. He loves hyping fights and I’m sure he loves training. He’s a good fighter. He’s a great fighter and he’s an awesome athlete but he can’t fight forever and maybe he’s at a point he’d like to do something else. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong.
Well, if the comments made by the man himself are any indication, Melanson is most certainly wrong. When asked on this very subject by ESPN’s Franklin McNeil, Sonnen declared that:
It’s tough but, unfortunately, it’s not my first athletic defeat. You can’t get down. You can’t get depressed. Every single day you get up, you’ve got to make the most of it.You’ve got to man up sometimes.
Truer words have never been spoken. At least not by Chael P. Sonnen.
So what do you think, Potato Nation? Is Sonnen headed for retirement, destined to be the #2 man at middleweight forevermore, or simply biding his time for yet another run at the title?