We spoke to Bellator World Heavyweight Grand Prix combatant Chael Sonnen on Wednesday’s Bellator 192 conference call about giving up weight, and potentially defending the title should he win the tournament.
Chael Sonnen is considered by many to be a long shot to win the upcoming Bellator World Heavyweight Grand Prix. The tournament, which will crown Bellator’s heavyweight champion, kicks off on January 20 at The Forum in L.A., where Sonnen is tasked with taking on former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. Defeating Jackson, who has fought a who’s who in MMA over the years, is no easy task. Especially for the man likely to be the smallest body in the entire gauntlet. After all, Sonnen (30–15–1), age 40, has fought at light heavyweight, and is perhaps best known as a middleweight.
Still, this is the task he’s signed up for. Sonnen is aiming to weigh-in around 214lbs next Saturday; Jackson wouldn’t confirm what he expects to come in at. With that in mind, we asked Chael if he worried at all about how taxing the weight discrepancy could be on his body, especially over (potentially) multiple fights?
“I haven’t thought about it being taxing, but it is a first for me” Sonnen answered. “It creates a little bit of anxiety, like I lay in bed at night working this match through. I’ve got some teammates that I go with that are as big as Rampage or bigger, and a lot of my techniques just don’t work. I’ll do everything perfect and hit those guys and boom, I just get stomped because of the size. It’s a first for me. I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve enjoyed the unknown.”
The unknown took him to some new places in training. “I got into grappling lately, the only reason I went into grappling is just that I’ve never done it before” he continued. “There was some apprehensiveness, maybe you’d even call it fear. That’s kind of what I enjoyed about the process. I don’t know what to make about it. I have had a hard time in practice with some of the stuff I’ve done, and fortunately have those bodies to go ‘Okay, we might have to go to a Plan B or Plan C here.’ I don’t fully know what to make about it.”
All our careers end the same: face down and embarrassed. I think that I’m going to follow suit on that.
One issue Sonnen has run into is the lack of animosity with Jackson. For Sonnen, a little bit of animosity is necessary in a fight. Yet in a tournament, you’re simply fighting whoever is put in front of you.
Should he make it through, the ‘The Gangster from West Linn’ plans on defending the heavyweight title. Sonnen made that clear when we asked him whether he’d consider riding off into the sunset. Then there’s the weight situation, which we saw took a toll on Georges St. Pierre in the UFC.
“I definitely would not go anywhere else or use it as a negotiation tool, I want to make that really clear. I’m completely loyal to Bellator and would not consider anything else” Sonnen offered. When it comes to defending the belt, “I really believe, I’m a traditionalist. I’m a fan first. I really believe you’ve got to defend it.”
“I don’t feel anybody should go out on top” he added, noting how few fighters even get to. “Some guys do, Georges St. Pierre is one of them. But he gave them every chance in the world to beat him. He gave guys rematches, some guys got three matches, he changed weight, he did everything he could do to get beat and pass that torch, he was just that damn good. Aside from him and Lennox Lewis, I can’t think of anyone that goes out on top.”
“All our careers end the same: face down and embarrassed” Sonnen mused. “I think that I’m going to follow suit on that.”