The phone rang and when Chael Sonnen saw it was Scott Coker calling, he knew that meant it was probably an offer for a fight.
When the Bellator president did offer Sonnen another bout, Sonnen said yes. Importantly, he said yes before he knew what weight class it would be in or who it would be against.
A middleweight throughout his career and an occasional light heavyweight, Sonnen was offered a fight at Bellator 192 on Saturday against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at The Forum in Inglewood, California, as part of Bellator’s eight-man heavyweight grand prix.
In typical Sonnen fashion, he committed to the event without even thinking as long as two seconds.
And so a guy who is most decidedly not a heavyweight will be competing in the first heavyweight grand prix in the promotion’s history.
Sonnen admits he’s no heavyweight, but that is no issue to him.
“I’m not a heavyweight,” Sonnen told Yahoo Sports. “What I am is a fighter. When Scott Coker called and asked me if I wanted in the tournament he was putting together, I said yes. Then he told me it was a heavyweight tournament. I just said, ‘OK, when and where?’ and I went to practice to get ready. That’s what I do.”
Sonnen isn’t the only man in the field who has fought the majority of his career below heavyweight. The same is true of Jackson, Bellator light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader, and Muhammad Lawal.
Jackson has grown into a heavyweight and much of the talk in the pre-fight build-up has been about whether Sonnen can overcome the size disadvantage he’ll face.
“I think Rampage has just one way to win, which is to knock me out,” Sonnen said. “I don’t think he’s going to out-scramble me or out-hustle me. But listen, it comes down to this: There is something sports reporters have always talked about and it will never stop, as often as it is disproved and as annoying as it is. They’ll talk about a reach advantage, even though they can’t ever give an example in a fistfight where reach has been an advantage, and they’ll talk about a size advantage.
“History shows that size is a disadvantage. Mike Tyson never once had a reach advantage or out-weighed an opponent in his entire career (Editor’s note: That is not correct). … No matter how many times it’s been proven that size works against you, and I can tell you it’s the same for me, that from a wrestling standpoint, the hardest guy to take on is the guy one weight class below me because he’s always a little quicker and he can go a little bit longer than you can because you’re moving that weight around, we continuously hear about that. Size is not an issue. Period. End of story.”
Sonnen is a master promoter whose gift of gab helped him to get a UFC middleweight title fight with Anderson Silva when Silva was at the peak of his powers. Sonnen nearly pulled off the greatest upset in UFC history when he pummeled Silva for four-plus rounds until being submitted in the waning moments.
He’s remained a visible figure even through suspensions for drug policy violations and since joining Bellator, has been making it a point to call out legendary heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko.
If he defeats Jackson on Saturday and Emelianenko gets past Frank Mir, they’ll meet in the semifinals.
Wins over Jackson and Emelianenko would likely prove lucrative to Sonnen, who said money is the last thing on his mind.
“To be honest, they can take their money and shove it up their [expletive],” he said. “Money has never been a factor for me. This is about being a competitor. My life’s dream was to be an Olympic champion, and there’s no money in that.
“The fact that this has turned into a business and even a career is wonderful, but it was never my motivation and it isn’t now. I like to compete, and I’m only going to be alive for so long. If I can compete for 50 years of that life, then good for me. I don’t have any friends. I have to go to the gym to see the guys. That’s how I socialize and how I talk and see people and staying current on what’s going on in the world. That’s the life I know. It’s not about chasing paychecks, that’s for sure.”
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