Chael Sonnen not excited about return fight

NEIL SPRINGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:28 PM ET

Usually when a fighter puts on the performance of his career, it leads to bigger opportunities and an explosion in popularity.

Chael Sonnen’s shining moment came 14 months ago when he pushed middleweight champion Anderson Silva to the brink of defeat at UFC 117, only to lose by a stunning fifth-round submission. Prior to the fight, Sonnen took trash talking to whole new level, but come fight night he backed up every ounce of it.

Sonnen’s stock hit an all-time high and an immediate rematch was scheduled, but what followed was a series of controversies that almost forced him into an early retirement.

First, there was his post-fight drug test, which revealed elevated levels of testosterone due to hormone replacement therapy. The whole situation became a muddled mess of miscommunication, bureaucracy and lies, but ended with Sonnen being able to return to MMA competition.

Then came the money-laundering charges, which related back to a crooked real-state deal. Sonnen pleaded guilty, was fined $10,000 US, lost his realtor’s licence and was sentenced to two years probation.

But having put all that nastiness behind him, is Sonnen excited to finally get back in the octagon and lock horns with Brian Stann this Saturday?

Hell no.

“I don’t know if I ever look forward to (fighting),” Sonnen said on a recent conference call. “I hear some guys say they’re excited and I always get jealous of those guys. I’ve never been excited to have to go fight another man. I’m not excited now.

“Look, I’ll speak for everybody: No one wants to fight Brian, but somebody’s got to. Our paths have to cross. We’re just in the same weight class, it’s not that big of a pool and he keeps whipping everybody. If he quit beating everybody, then I wouldn’t have to fight him. But he decided to go out and become one of the top guys.”

The two will meet this weekend at UFC 136 in Houston with the winner earning a shot at Silva. The show will be headlined by two title fights, as Frankie Edgar defends the lightweight championship against Gray Maynard and featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo faces Kenny Florian.

It’s amazing how often Sonnen, who hasn’t competed in more than a year, was able to generate headlines from the sidelines. All he had to do was lay down some smack on Twitter and MMA fans started talking about him again — and reporters like me were writing about him.

It was like he never really left us.

But now that Sonnen’s on a collision course with not only a hard-hitting middleweight, but an American military hero, he has left the trash out back.

Stann said he isn’t surprised Sonnen has been polite.

“I told everyone from the start that I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Stann said. “I feel Chael is very genuine when he says that if he has a problem with someone, he will speak it or when he doesn’t have a problem with someone, he won’t. When you saw his fights with Nate Marquardt, Dan Miller and Yushin Okami, he didn’t have anything to say about those guys. He spoke about the fight.

“So it wasn’t surprising to me at all that didn’t happen. I also wouldn’t have taken it personally, anyways, if there was anything used to generate some hype around this fight. But I really think that our skill sets and the way we fight have generated all the hype it needs.”

Stylistically, this could be a hell of a scrap. Both guys are pressure fighters who don’t like to take a step backwards.

Sonnen’s bread and butter are his wrestling and ground-and-pound. He’s also one of the most active fighters from inside an opponent’s guard, constantly grinding away while picking his moments to posture up for heavy shots.

Stann hits like a freight train, but if he has one weakness it’s his wrestling. However, he proved to be a threat off his back when he submitted Mike Massenzio with a triangle choke last year.

Stann said he has focused on wrestling more than any other discipline since getting out-grappled by Phil Davis in his final light-heavyweight outing at UFC 109 in 2010 and feels everything has come together since dropping to 185 pounds.

“Early in my career I had a very limited skill set, but I was very comfortable with that skill set, so I could fight 100 miles per hour,” Stann began. “When you then go somewhere where you are introduced to thousands of new skills, you become OK at all thousand of them and you’re trying to do way too much in the cage. Now you’re fighting at 70 miles per hour. It took me some time, but when I began to get comfortable with all these new skills, I could fight at 100 miles per hour again.

“I still fully anticipate the best Chael Sonnen in the octagon, and the guy who is going to double-leg takedown me, put me down and try to push my head right through the canvas.”

SOFTENING ON SILVA

Stop the presses: Chael Sonnen just complimented UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva.

Silva has long been the target of Sonnen’s verbal attacks, but since dispatching Yushin Okami in August, he may have finally earned the controversial middleweight’s seal of approval.

“It’s getting harder and harder to deny that he should be shown that appreciation,” Sonnen said. “He ducked Okami for years, but he did finally get in there and he made it look easy.

“If you’re asking if I would ever concede Anderson’s better than me — no. I would refer you to the tape. I think his and my skills are vastly different. I think I could come down a lot and still be ahead of him.

“But listen, his wins and losses speak for themselves. The fact of the matter is — whether I like to admit it or not — he’s done a better job than anybody. He’s done a better job than me and he is the champion. It doesn’t mean I’m going to quit poking my finger in his chest, but at some point fairness needs to kick in, too. I think you need to look at what he’s done and tip your hat a little bit.”

LUCKY NO. 3 FOR FLORIAN?

Kenny Florian is hoping the third time really is the charm.

Having lost lightweight title fights to Sean Sherk and B.J. Penn, Florian’s now gunning for the featherweight strap when he meet Jose Aldo in the UFC 136 co-main event Saturday.

Though the card will mark Florian’s 17th pro fight in the octagon, he admitted he has never fought anyone quite like Aldo.

“I’ve always learned from each previous camp, win or lose,” Florian said on a recent conference call. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’m thankful for those mistakes.

“I feel good. I’ve trained my ass for this fight and I’m looking forward to going out there and competing hard.

“(Aldo) is pretty unique. He’s a fast, explosive guy, similar to B.J., but obviously more of a kicker. His dangerous weapons are his legs. He has excellent footwork, is very fast and dangerous on the ground.”

MOVING UP IN ALDO’S FUTURE

UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo knows his time at 145 pounds is limited.

At 25 years old, his metabolism is fast enough to handle dropping the weight necessary to defend his title. But a time will come when he will have to make the jump to lightweight.

“Since I started training any martial arts, dating back to my jiu jitsu days, I’ve been cutting a lot of weight,” Aldo said through his translator, Derek Lee. “I feel comfortable doing it and definitely being young helps that a lot. But I do feel there might come a point where all that weight-cutting takes a toll on the body. I hope that when I reach that point, I’m mature enough to figure out I have to move up in weight.

“I’m comfortable (cutting to featherweight) right now. It doesn’t bother me and I feel healthy.”

LOMBARD READY TO RUMBLE

Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard will meet UFC and Strikeforce veteran Trevor Prangley in a non-title affair Nov. 19 in Hollywood, Fla.

Lombard, undefeated in his past 24 fights, hasn’t defended his Bellator strap in a year. Though Prangley has more than 30 bouts to his name, he’s seen by many as a tune-up for Lombard, who awaits the winner of the current middleweight tournament.

“I just want November to get here and knock someone out,” Lombard said. “I doesn’t matter who it is, I just want to do what I do and that’s win. I don’t know much about Trevor, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll be in front of my fans in Florida, and it’s going to be a show.”

Prangley feels he can out-work Lombard to pull off the upset.

“Both of us are going to get in that cage and throw bombs, no questions asked,” Prangley said. “It’s no secret both of us like to stand and bang, and that’s exactly what everyone is going to get. I know Hector is really tough on his feet, but so am I, so he’s going to have to play my game when the cage door shuts.”

*CHART*

At UFC 125 in January, lightweight champion Frankie Edgar went to a draw with challenger Gray Maynard. Though it was only the fourth time in UFC history that a winner couldn’t be decided in a title fight, the two meet again Saturday to settle the score.

For now, here’s a look at UFC championship draws.

Ken Shamrock vs. Royce Gracie at UFC 5 on April 7, 1995 (superfight title)

Ken Shamrock vs. Oleg Taktarov at UFC 7 on Sept. 8, 1995 (superfight title)

B.J. Penn vs. Caol Uno at UFC 41 on Feb. 28, 2003 (lightweight title)

Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard at UFC 125 on Jan 1, 2011 (lightweight title)

JOSE'S RANT

The world is full of dumb laws and Canada’s no exception.

In Alberta, businesses must provide rails for tying up horses. In Nova Scotia, when it’s raining, a person may not water the lawn.

In Kentucky, it is illegal to transport ice cream in your pocket — this one spawns from an old horse-thieving trick. And in England, committing suicide is classified as a capital crime — punishable by death.

One dumb law in Canada’s Criminal Code is being fought by some of the toughest guys in the country.

The UFC unleashed a couple of its top Canadian fighters on our nation’s capital last week to lobby the feds to change an antiquated law that is — to this day — stopping mixed-martial arts from taking place in some provinces.

UFC Canada boss Tom Wright, along with fighters Mark Hominick and Yves Jabouin, asked politicians to make changes to the Criminal Code so places like Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island can host legal MMA events.

You see, back in the mid-1800’s, the government of the day decided that boxing was the only legal form of prize fighting and those involved had to wear the giant pillow-gloves to partake.

The law goes as far as to criminalize anyone who engages in or aids, refs or even reports (gulp) about non-boxing prize fights.

Provinces with sanctioning bodies have found a way around the law, but others have been reluctant jump a couple of centuries into the present.

And that deprives fans.

As expected, there wasn’t a politician on the Hill who disagreed with the UFC’s call to change the Criminal Code.

In fact, the event looked more like an autograph and photo session than a lobby.

But despite all the promises to change the law, it’s still on the books. That needs to change and change now.

Even if it’s only so the good folk in Saskatchewan can park the John Deeres at the arena and watch a mixed martial arts event.

— Jose Rodriguez


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