Bellator 208’s Chael Sonnen was busy fighting in America while Fedor Emelianenko was “wrasslin’ in Japan,” and always figured a fight with the Russian great would be Randy Couture’s fight.
New York, NY — Chael Sonnen faces Pride legend Fedor Emelianenko in the main event of Bellator 208 on Saturday. It’s the second of two back-to-back Heavyweight Grand Prix semi-finals, and another massive name for Sonnen. Sonnen, through his years in the UFC and Bellator, has fought the likes of Anderson Silva, Michael Bisping, Jon Jones, Shogun Rua, Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson, and a host of others. Every single one of those fighters has been a world champion. Sonnen has beat at least a few of them.
On Saturday, however, he’ll complete an impressive triumvirate. Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, and Fedor Emelianeko are considered three of the greatest fighters of all time. Having already faced Jones and Silva, Emelianenko will complete the hat trick. It’s a fight Sonnen admitted at Wednesday’s open workouts that either man could win. “I’m not a bully. I’ve never walked into a fight I knew I was going to win. He can win this fight. But I can beat him too,” Sonnen explained.
And despite what others are reading into the situation, Sonnen hasn’t been paying much attention to the importance of having fought three of the sport’s greatest fighters. For him, it’s not something he saw as an honor. “Maybe I need to reevaluate. Maybe it is an honor,” Sonnen said. “But I don’t feel that way.”
“I never got to enjoy my career. Which I look back at and really regret,” Sonnen explained. “I wish I did enjoy some of these moments. But it’s always been so hard. The work is so hard and stressful, and the environment and the competition and everything that’s on the line. So I never thought about it like that.”
Instead he has approached his fighting career as a wrestler. “When I was a wrestler, you took on everybody. So in fighting, I never looked at myself as fortunate,” he continued. “But I think maybe I’m looking at it wrong, I think I have been fortunate.”
After that, the promotional side of Chael Sonnen came out. “Fedor’s the greatest heavyweight of all time. He’s taking on the greatest fighter of all time. There’s a big difference,” Sonnen exclaimed. Then proceeded to downplay the very division he’s currently competing in. “I think the heavyweight class is a very overrated class. I don’t respect it, I haven’t respected it my whole life. It’s like the 125lb’ers, sometimes you gotta just have divisions to be nice to people.”
“I could be wrong about that, I’m open to being wrong about it, I’m going to find out on Saturday. But I’d take my silver medals in the weight classes I got them in versus any heavyweight any day.”
The Fedor fight is not one Sonnen ever expected to get. “I thought this was Randy’s fight. I wanted it to be Randy’s fight,” he said, in reference to UFC legend Randy Couture. Couture, of course, doggedly pursued a fight with the Russian for years. Though, Sonnen would admit, “I used to think about Fedor a lot, when I’d be training. I’d be running, I’d be doing my exercises and I’d be thinking about Fedor. But I was a middleweight, and he was a heavyweight. He was wrasslin’ in Japan, and I was fighting in America.”
Asked what he meant by “wrasslin’ in Japan,” Sonnen retorted that “I mean the fights were fixed. You know exactly what I meant by it.” It’s a refrain Sonnen has repeated often of late, a dig at Japan’s Pride, who were accused of all sorts of shady dealings back in the day.
One thing is certain, Sonnen has a big challenge ahead of him Saturday. But he did give his thoughts on Bellator 207’s main event. “I like that fight a lot. I don’t think we’re going to see any surprises. I think Mitrione’s got to take care of him on his feet, and Bader’s got to drag him down. I trust those guys, that’s what those guys are saying,” said Sonnen. “Mitrione thinks he can knock him out, and Bader thinks he can drag him down. I think they’re both right. I think if Mitrione lands, Bader’s in trouble. If Bader gets a hold of him, Mitrione’s probably not going to get up for a little bit.”
“Good fight. I wish I was first, I wish I was on Friday and I could go and watch their fight and ridicule them or enjoy them or however I wanted to do it,” Sonnen finished.
Watch the full Chael Sonnen media scrum from Wednesday’s open workouts ahead of Bellator 208. The event takes place Saturday, October 13, airing live and free on Paramount Network.