Chael Sonnen is a trash talking virtuoso. | Photo: Dave Mandel
Chael Sonnen has mastered the soundbyte.
Since re-entering the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2009, the mouthy 34-year-old middleweight has emerged as one of MMA’s most polarizing figures and most competent promoters. Love him or hate him, few can argue with the results. He has parlayed his gift of provocative gab and All-American wrestling ability into some high-profile matchups against former middleweight King of Pancrase Nate Marquardt, Japanese brute Yushin Okami and, most notably, UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Still a relevant piece of the 185-pound puzzle despite a positive test for suspected steroid use and a guilty plea to federal money laundering charges, Sonnen will face decorated war hero Brian Stann in a de facto title eliminator at UFC 136 this Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston. A victory there would likely propel him into a rematch with Silva and rekindle a rivalry that has burned as brightly as any in UFC history.
Ahead of UFC 136, Sherdog.com has pieced together a compilation of Sonnen’s most memorable quotes. This is Chael Patrick Sonnen -- in his own words.
Sonnen was in rare form in the days and weeks leading into his UFC 117 showdown with Silva on Aug. 7, 2010 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.:
• “I’ve stuck my finger in this guy’s chest for four years, and he fought everybody in the world that wasn’t named Chael Sonnen. He’s got what I want. He’s got 12 pounds of gold, and I want it.”
• “This is a one-sided dance. I saved Anderson’s job. Uncle [UFC President] Dana [White] was going to give him his walking papers [after his performance against Demian Maia at UFC 112], and I begged him, ‘Keep him around. Keep him around for one more fight. I will retire this guy.’”
• “Anderson Silva’s a liar. He said he would fight [Maia] in Abu Dhabi, and he didn’t fight. I did my level best to watch it. I couldn’t stomach it. I’m not on the bandwagon to completely kick Anderson to the curb for that, because I don’t know why he does it. If he did it to be a jerk, then he’s a jerk. If he did it as a setup, I give him a pass.”
• “I have an obligation to make him fight. When I got a call from Dana that said, ‘Will you fight this guy?’ I said, ‘You bet I’ll fight him. I don’t know who will win.’ And I don’t know who will win. I’m not a bully. If I knew I could beat this guy, I wouldn’t show up. I don’t know that I can beat him, but I can guarantee you there will be a fight.”
• “I’ve put a whole lifetime into getting this one night, this one opportunity. There’s a saying that Matt Hughes started that you’re never the champion unless you defend that belt. That’s a bunch of crap. You leave that ring with 12 pounds of gold around your waist, you are the world champion. I would trade everything I’ve got and start over from scratch tomorrow for one night to walk out of that ring with that belt.”
• “He’s a fantastic fighter. I’m not delusional to his skill set. I don’t care if he’s better. He can be better, but I’m tougher, and in 25 minutes, we’re going to find out who’s toughest. One of us is going to stick around and grind it out for 25, and I propose it’s me. As far as his weaknesses, I don’t know what they are. I know what my strengths are, and that’s what I bring to the table.”
“I’m going to get into range. I accept I’m going to get hit, and I accept that it’s going to hurt. I will go to the hospital that night, but in those 25 minutes, I will be in range the whole time. If he wants to throw one of those fists at me, he can go right ahead. I’m going to walk right through them. I’m going to grab his legs. I’m going to push him into that fence. I’m going to pick him up, and I’m going to put him on his prissy little ass. You can guarantee that.”
• “I am giving Anderson Silva the fair chance to back out and back out now, but as sure as night follows day, if he does not heed my warning, I will declare war, and, on Aug. 7, his 15 minutes of fame will come to an abrupt halt.”
Sonnen, who has suffered eight of his 11 career defeats by submission, pointed a critical finger at Silva’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and his longtime training partners, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Many viewed it as a low blow:
• “He’s got a black belt under the Nogueiras. I think a black belt under the Nogueiras is saying, like, I got a free toy in my Happy Meal. I don’t really understand what the big deal is. One of ’em’s a punching bag, and the other one I just ignore; he’s really irrelevant.”
For the better part of four and a half rounds, Sonnen backed up his bravado.
He secured six takedowns and outstruck the Brazilian by a staggering 320-64 count, including 89-29 in terms of significant strikes. However, in the fifth round, Sonnen sank too low in Silva’s guard, found himself trapped in a triangle armbar and submitted 3:10 into the final frame. Even after the fight, he refused to recognize the champion as the victor:
• “In what parallel scoring system do you punch a man 300 times, he hits you 11 times, wraps his legs around your head for eight seconds and they declare him the winner? That doesn’t make you a winner. In no form of society, from the jungle to the streets, does that make you a winner. I’m the people’s champion. I’m the linear champion. I’m the best middleweight there’s ever been, and I am the UFC’s true champion.”
Not even Silva’s longtime manager, Ed Soares, escaped the reach of Sonnen’s venom:
• “He’s the world’s most famous interpreter. Somehow he even got himself into the [UFC] video game.”
Many have question the legitimacy in Sonnen’s vitriol. He answered those critics during a segment on Bruce Buffer’s “It’s Time” show on the Sherdog Radio Network, comparing those who hype fights with empty rhetoric to car salesmen that mislead customers into a purchase and then reveal the lie after the purchase becomes final:
• “I don’t manufacture conflict. I don’t try to sell fights or talk trash or hype anything. I hear those things said about myself. I see people constantly attempt to imitate me, but that’s not what I’m doing. I don’t make anything up. If I don’t mean it, I won’t say it. Apparently in the fight business you’re allowed to say things that you don’t mean to sell fights, and I hate that concept. I can’t tell you how dishonest I find that. You would be furious [if a car salesman took that approach]. You’d march into the attorney general’s office. You’d have the guy’s license revoked. You’d probably get a refund. But somewhere in the fight world, it’s OK to make things up. I would never do that. Look, if I don’t mean it, I won’t say it.”
Sonnen has done nothing to hide or soften his personal dislike for Silva, who, with a record 14 consecutive victories inside the UFC, has become the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport:
• “That’s just the way it goes. I don’t do that for Anderson because I don’t feel that about Anderson. I don’t like Anderson Silva. I don’t like any of those Black House guys. I don’t need to explain my reasons and I don’t need to apologize for it. If they’ve got a problem with it, we can settle it in the people’s forum: the Octagon.”
Even after his submission defeat to “The Spider,” Sonnen continued to target him and even addressed a much-talked-about super fight between Silva and reigning UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre:
• “I think it would be one-sided, a very easy match for GSP.”
At least publicly, Sonnen was convinced Silva’s five-year reign over the middleweight division would end in his rematch with Yushin Okami at UFC 134. It did not, as Silva thrashed the Japanese standout en route to a second-round technical knockout in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. That performance put the spotlight back on the Sonnen-Stann showdown, as a victory there would all but ensure a rematch between the controversial West Linn, Ore., native and Silva:
• “I’m going to grab him and beat him up anyway, just for laughs, just on principle. Just for my sheer entertainment, I’m going to go slap that guy around. I don’t need his little tin belt. I’m already the champion.”
In recent days, even Sonnen has shown some respect for Silva’s unprecedented accomplishments in the UFC. It includes victories over Okami, Marquardt, Maia, former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder Dan Henderson, onetime UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin (twice) and former UFC light heavyweight titleholders Vitor Belfort and Forrest Griffin:
• “It’s getting harder and harder to deny that he should be shown that appreciation. He ducked Okami for years, but he did finally get in there and he made it look easy, so, I think you’ve got to look at that. If you’re asking if I would ever concede that Anderson’s better than me? No. I would simply refer you to the tape. I think [our] skills are vastly different. I think I could come down a lot and still be ahead of him. I also think he ducks and dodges opponents constantly, but, listen, his wins and losses speak for themselves and the fact of the matter, whether I’d like to admit it or not, is he’s done a better job than anybody; he’s done a better job than me, and he is the champion. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to quit poking my finger in his chest, but, at some point, I think fairness needs to kick in, too, and I think you need to look at what he’s done and tip your hat to him a little bit.”