Chael Sonnen and Lyoto Machida will be facing off at Bellator 222, which will be taking place in Madison Square Garden in New York City on June 14, 2019. Earlier today at the press conference for the event, both Sonnen and Machida were in attendance, but there is one thing that was missing: Sonnen’s customary trash talk:
“I’m not gonna make it up if it’s not real,” Sonnen said in an exclusive interview with MMA News’ Fernando Quiles Jr. “That’s up to the promoter. If the promoter wants to get two guys in there that have a personal grudge, then he can line two guys up with a personal grudge. But Machida, he’s never been anything but a gentleman to me, to my peers. I’ve never treated him any differently. Nothing about today changed. The other side of the coin is, he has the same goals that I do, and now he’s in the same weight class that I am. So I mean, there’s a lot of stakes on the line here.
“You know, they tell you you shouldn’t be emotional about it. It is emotional. They say you shouldn’t take it personal. It is personal.
“But is he a nice guy? Yeah, he seems like a really nice guy.”
Lyoto Machida is not just a “nice guy.” He’s also a very dangerous one and one who historically has proved to be a different puzzle for wrestlers to solve, a fact that Chael Sonnen is very well aware of:
“Yeah, I don’t know what it is about him. That guy’s the wrestler killer,” Sonnen said. “I feel like that should be his nickname. And I don’t know if anybody’s looked at his schedule or resume enough to see how many top wrestlers he puts to sleep. He gets out of there. The guy really has a very elusive style for whatever reason. I haven’t figured it out yet.”
Prior to this bout, Chael Sonnen tried his hand at the heavyweight division for the first time in his MMA career, but came up short against Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator 208 in the semifnals of the Heavyweight Grand Prix. Ryan Bader would go on to defeat Fedor and become the Bellator heavyweight champion in the process. Bader also holds the title at 205, another division Sonnen is familiar with.
One thing we have learned from the UFC is that it is difficult to hold two titles at once. Sonnen believes that Bader has earned the opportunity to set a different standard for double champions in Bellator:
“You have to give Bader leeway,” Sonnen said. “I mean, he came through this thing the hard way. He went into a tournament, moving up in weight…and particularly his draw. He did not have an easy draw. I did not think he was gonna get through the first round. I mean, just to put in perspective what a good job Ryan Bader did…and as a competitor but also somebody in that tournament, I’m not gonna take that from him.
“It’s one of those things where, we all agreed to the rules ahead of time. We all agreed to recognize the winner ahead of time. And he came out of that thing.”
What about Chael Sonnen? Is his days of fighting for titles over now? Not by a long shot according to The American Gangster. In fact, Sonnen believes that if he wanted to, he could be fighting for a world title right now:
“I believe I could fight for the title right now if I just said I wanted to,” Sonnen said. “That would make two different weight classes. I think I could take Machida’s spot away and be the top guy at 185.
They never ran me out of 185, for the record. I left 185. I was the king of that division. I left on my own. And they all keep looking around, happy like Chael’s never gonna come back. And that’s probably a good bet.
“I think the division’s in very good hands with Gegard Mousassi. I don’t know if I can say that same with 205 with Ryan Bader because of the fact that he might be spending some time at heavyweight. So let’s see where that goes. But I believe I could fight for a title if I wanted to.”
What are your takeaways from this Chael Sonnen interview?