By: Sean Crose
“I don’t do a whole lot of it,” Chael Sonnen said on a Tuesday conference call to promote his Belator 208 heavyweight title eliminator this weekend against Fedor Emilianenko, “just a show every here and there.” Sonnen was referring to his very active media presence as a podcaster and commentator. Even after working the wild UFC McGregor-Nurmagomedov card last weekend, Sonnen still claimed he was ready to face Fedor, a man widely regarded as the greatest heavyweight MMA combatant in history. “I’m sore and tired all the time,” Sonnen added, as proof that he’s been hard at work preparing for the Fedor match, which will go down at New York’s Nassau Coliseum.
Sonnen, one of the most highly regarded practitioners in mixed martial arts, might be best known for his famous near win against then dominant UFC star Anderson Silva years ago. Now that he’s facing another iconic brand in the 37-5-1 Fedor, the 30-15-1 Sonnen is at a point in his long career where he can put things in perspective. Of his colorful time as a top fighter, Sonnen claimed: “I think I should have more appreciation.” Still, the heavyweight is a man who looks towards the future. “As my life moves on,” he added. “I would like to create new memories.”
He’ll certainly have a chance against Fedor, a nice seeming man who nonetheless has earned a reputation as an aggressive, fearsome, and highly skilled fighter, one who is able to employ a variety of disciplines while in the octagon. “I think Fedor’s great,” Sonnen said, declaring his foe “the best heavyweight of all time” (while adding Fedor was about “to face the best fighter of all time”). Sonnen, who was long known as a classic villain, now seems reasonable in an era of Conor and Khabib. Not that he’s happy about it.
“I’m the biggest heel this sport has,” he stated on the call. Sonnen, however, has never thrown a dolly against a bus window, nor has he ever dove into the audience after a fight to attack someone, a difference between himself and recent UFC stars he seemed happy to admit to. “It’s important to be civilized,” Sonnen claimed outright. “It was a really big shock,” he said, when the inevitable matter of last weekend’s near riot in Las Vegas came up. “I don’t know why it happened.”
Yet, for the moment, Sonnen’s main priority is beating his famed opponent this Saturday. “I’ve been stunned,” he said of Fedor, “at how hard he can hit – especially with that right hand.” Not that he’s worried. Sonnen, after all, is the biggest heel around.
Or at least that’s a character he still likes to play.