Bellator 208: Chael Sonnen Talks Being the Babyface, Legacy in MMA

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Bellator 192's Chael Sonnen
Chael Sonnen Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

The always quotable Chael Sonnen was in fine form at Tuesday’s media call for Bellator 207 and Bellator 208 — where he discussed the other side of the heavyweight grand prix bracket, legacy, and more.

Chael Sonnen has arguably been the MMA’s biggest heel over the years. Yet as was pointed out to him on Tuesday, of late, he’s had a softer image — as a babyface, to continue borrowing from the wrestling world. Yet any such accusations get Sonnen’s juices flowing. “I despise it, and I will do anything to get out of that role,” he said of the babyface label. “It’s  inaccurate, and I wish you’d report it correctly: I’m the biggest heel this sport has. I promise you, I am a snake with blue eyes.”

Rest assured, the promotional abilities of Chael Sonnen are in fine form heading into Bellator 208 this weekend. And while the stoic Fedor Emelianenko isn’t quite a wellspring for material the way Wanderlei Silva was, there were plenty of other topics for Sonnen’s quick wit to take aim at on Tuesday.

For starters, the other side of the heavyweight tournament bracket, which actually has Sonnen excited. “If I had my druthers, I would be on Friday and they would be on Saturday,” he said. “I would like to sit back and enjoy that match. I think that it is really hard, I think that Mitrione has some very clear ways to win. But we are all fighting for a world championship. Ryan Bader’s already a world champion. We know he can win  this whole thing. I just think it’s an interesting match.”

“I like what Mitrione says. I think if Mitrione connects, Bader’s going to have some big problems,” Sonnen added. “I like what Bader says, he says ‘I’m good at what Matt’s weaknesses are.'”

On being a middleweight in a heavyweight grand prix? “Last week I was about to 227, I’d like to weigh in for the fight at about 220. A little bit under would be ideal for me.”

“I came in with a different philosophy. I’ve always thought that us smaller guys were the better athletes,” Sonnen said of the size question. “Whether it was 85 or 205, that we were the better athletes, and that was going to be my approach. I was going to use speed and athleticism [and] ability to put things together, to chain wrestle, to push a pace harder than what heavyweights have seen. And whether that turns out to be right or not, that’s the philosophy I went with.”

If that speed over size approach works out against the legendary Fedor, it will be a massive addition to the legacy of Chael Sonnen. Yet legacy isn’t something he’s necessarily considered, or even interested in. “I haven’t thought of it in those terms, but I think the tournament is going to change somebody’s career in the way that they’re remembered,” he stated.

That said, Sonnen admitted he resists using the term legacy, as it reminds him too much of high school athletes trying to relive their glory years. Instead, he’s looking to create new memories. “I’m not a big legacy guy, but I can personally tell you of some losses that I’ve had that have kept me up. And they hurt really bad. I don’t like that feeling, and I do everything I can to avoid them and I would like to win this match.”

As to what how he wants to be remembered in the sport, Sonnen had some pointed words. “I have a real frustration about where this sport is at,” he started.

“It’s very hard for us to look at the locker rooms today, where these guys need carrots dangled in front of their face, where they’re pulling out of fights, where they’re missing weight, where they’re coming up with excuses. I don’t know anything about this.” Sonnen, meanwhile, came up at a time when “there was no fame, there was no money in this sport.”

“How would I like to be remembered? I am going to set an example for the industry that you either want to do this or you don’t, and if you don’t, get the hell out of the way and let somebody else come take your spot,” he finished.

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