In this week’s edition of the Sunday Supplement takes an in depth look at Chael Sonnen big return and shock move to Bellator from UFC.
Chael Sonnen returns to MMA with Bellator
This week saw the shocking return of The American Gangster, Chael Sonnen and perhaps even more shocking was the fact that he was not coming back to the UFC, instead choosing to bring his star power to Bellator with a multiyear, multi-fight. He is just the latest in the list of big name fighters to make the crossover to Viacom’s MMA brand.
He follows in the footsteps of Rory MacDonald, Benson Henderson, Phil Davis, Matt Mitirone, and many more. However, this is the biggest coup for Bellator so far. Sonnen grabs headlines and moves the needle. Before Conor McGregor, there was Chael Sonnen. His star power will be a great addition to the growing Bellator brand. He can help the company make a big splash with the buzz from his return and his eventual actual fights.
Sonnen said one of his main reasons for returning was his dislike of the direction the fight game heading in, pointing out how fighters these days are more about the money, who their opponents are, weight classes, etc. rather than just fighting for the competition.
“I’m watching these guys and they’re talking about money and who their opponents are and the weight class and then this happens,” Sonnen said on Friday on a Bellator media conference call. “Who cares about all of that stuff? You either want to fight or you don’t, and one of my main motivations for coming back is pure anger. I sit back as a fan, I watch these guys quibble and squabble. I put this deal together with [Scott] Coker over three phone calls. I didn’t negotiate. I didn’t ask for anything. I wanted an opportunity to fight, that was it. And he’ll tell you the same thing. It was as simple as that.”
He said stressed this wasn’t about the money. “I am legitimately pissed off as a fan when I sit and read about guys who will only do this for ‘x’ amount of money, and everybody needs to be bribed. Do you want to do it or not? And the right guy, the best guy, every time says yes. And [number] three and four and five can go and do all these pity parties and come up with all of these reasons why they don’t want to jump and fight. I’m not one of those guys. I want to do it.”
Sonnen will return to fight for the first time since Nov. 16, 2013 and will compete in Bellator’s Ligh-Heavyweight Division according to the company. However, Sonnen stated that he will not be confined to just one weight class and will move wherever he needs to in order to make the big fights.
According to Bellator President Scott Coker, Sonnen is adamant that he wants to compete in three divisions in Bellator, listing names like long time rival Wanderlei Silva, Tito Ortiz, Fedor Emelianenko, and Rory MacDonald, names which vary from Heavyweight to Light-Heavyweight to Middleweight.
According to Coker, he hopes to have “some, if not all” of these matches organized before the end of the year, which is a big statement. It will be interesting to see how Sonnen does in his first fight after a three year hiatus from the cage, never mind four huge fights.
Despite those reservations, there is no doubt the all four of these fights will be huge and will provide a lot attention for Bellator from MMA die-hards and casual fans alike.
Of course, Sonnen was already supposed to fight Wanderlei Silva in the UFC at UFC 175 after both men coached the “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3.” Silva was pulled from the bout after evading a Nevada State Athletic Commission drug test. Sonnen was then scheduled to face Vitor Belfort at the event, but it was then announced that he had failed multiple drug tests and would then go on to announce his retirement from MMA.
This fight was highly-anticipated, even more so after their heated confrontations on their season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” It won’t take much to ignite the fuse on this feud once again and the build up to this fight would be an exciting one which could still capitalize on some of the buzz that they had built in the UFC. A lot of people would still love to see this fight, myself included. It looks like it will finally happen in Bellator.
Silva won’t be his first fight back, though. Sonnen told Associate Press writer Greg Beacham this week that he wants to fight UFC Hall of Famer and current Bellator light-heavyweight Tito Ortiz in his Bellator debut.
Tito Ortiz seems to be on board with this fight also. “I had zero heads-up Chael was signing with Bellator,” he told ESPN.com this week. “I was thinking Fedor or Rampage [Jackson would be the next fight]. I think this is a bigger fight than those. Chael interests me more than Fedor because he has a bigger following. He knows how to talk, and there’s history between us. I think Chael makes the most sense. He can sell the fight and I see it as redemption. It’s a perfect style match-up for me.”
Sonnen and Ortiz have history, having met in a wrestling match back in college. A fight between both men now that they are both legends of the sport would be a big deal. Both are still big draws in MMA and it will be a good fight for Sonnen for his first venture back inside the cage.
Ortiz was planning to face Fedor Emelianenko in his next and possibly last fight. This also ties in well for Sonnen, who is also interested in fighting Fedor as previously mentioned. Perhaps even more buzz could be built around Sonnen vs. Ortiz with the added stipulation that the winner of the fight will go on to fight Fedor next.
With the possibly of fighting Wanderlei Silva and Rory MacDonald afterwards, Chael Sonnen comes into Bellator with a lot of options and possibilities on the table and, win or lose, huge fights are coming to the Bellator cage. This is great for both parties, as Sonnen’s legacy grows (along with the “Chael Sonnen Bank Account,” because for all of his talk about not doing this for the money, he isn’t doing this for free) and Bellator’s profile in the MMA world continues to rise to new levels.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS “SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT”: THE SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT 9/11: What did Joe Rogan and Dana White say about his future? Could Bellator be next for Punk? More
(D.R. Webster writes “The Sunday Supplement” for MMATorch each week and also authors the MMATorch Daily Trivia feature. He has written for Daily Record Sport, WrestleTalk TV, Sports Kings, and a variety of other combat sports sites and publications, includinv review shows and DVDs, news reporting, columns, and fantasy articles.)