by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photo courtesy BodogFight)
For years it seemed that the knock on Team Quest’s Chael Sonnen was that he wasn’t aggressive enough and, despite his extensive wrestling credentials heading into mixed martial arts, he could not sustain continued winning streaks.
How things have changed.
Since joining the BodogFight promotion late last year, Sonnen has been on a tear, winning four in a row, finishing three of four opponents, and quickly rising to the top contender’s spot in the organization’s middleweight division.
Never one to bank on past achievements, he looks to continue his winning ways at Saturday’s Sportfight event in Portland, Ore., where he will be locking up with the always dangerous Kyacey Uscola in the evening’s main event.
During final preparations for his first hometown fight in two years, Sonnen spoke to MMAWeekly to discuss the fight, the state of MMA in Oregon, and the legend he wants to fight next.
MMAWeekly: First off Chael, how you feeling coming back to your hometown for the Sportfight show?
Chael Sonnen: I’m pretty excited to be fighting at home. There are some real benefits of that, the main of which is cutting weight. It’s always like a little obstacle when you’re on the road, so it’s nice to be here and know where everything is. The whole show in general is looking real good. Bodog (which is sponsoring the Sportfight event) had an interest in coming to Portland and putting me in as the headliner is a real complement.
MMAWeekly: Moving on to the fight against Kyacey Uscola, tell us your thoughts on that.
Sonnen: Kyacey is like the one guy that I was hoping I wouldn’t have (to fight). I’ve known him forever. I was literally at his very first fight and I’ve seen just about every one of his fights. I’m probably the worst guy he could get matched up with, just because I’ve seen all of his fights. I’ve seen him fight Matt Horwich and other teammates of mine.
So as far as Kyacey goes, yeah, I guess I could say I would prefer a different opponent. I’ve seen him knock a lot of guys out, but at the same time I’m an employee of Bodog and I do what’s best for the company, not what’s best for me.
MMAWeekly: In speaking with Kyacey about this fight, he feels his contract could be on the line, making him more dangerous than ever. Do you think that could affect your game plan, knowing that he’s coming out with a back-to-the-wall attitude?
Sonnen: I’m sure Kyacey’s got whatever’s going on with his mentality and motivations, but I don’t ever look at the opponent or what they’re going to do. I’m only focused on myself. You’ve got to be really selfish when you’re going into fights like this – so the only guy I’m looking at is me. I’m going to make sure I’m prepared, ready to go, in shape, fast, strong and mean. That’s all I can control, so that I can get into the ring ready to compete.
In terms of a game plan, we’ll come across the ring and we’ll have to start out on our feet in a boxing/kickboxing match. I know he hits hard, but I’m not the guy who’s going to dance around on the outside. I’ll step right there in arm’s reach, if he wants to reach out and hit me, I’ll be there.
I’ll do a good job of moving and not let him hit me, because he’s got some real power that needs to be respected. I’ve seen a lot of guys find that out the hard way. I’ll be right there, though, I’ve got hands too; I’m not a sitting duck.
MMAWeekly: You’ve been on quite a successful streak for BodogFight lately. Does that add any pressure for this headlining fight?
Sonnen: No, I certainly have to move forward. I can’t afford any bumps in the road at this point, so there’s always pressure. A lot of times you hear the word “pressure” and it’s a negative thing. Like, “there’s pressure fighting at home, there’s pressure of fighting in front of everybody, the pressure of being the favorite, there’s pressures of being expected to win,” but I like that stuff. I like having pressures on me.
I like any kind of adversity: I like getting in there when I’m hurt or not feeling well, and I’ve got to go fight anyway. I don’t look at it as an excuse, I look at it as an opportunity to build character and see how I’ll deal with it.
MMAWeekly: That doesn’t mean of course that you wouldn’t mind a quick win if it comes your way, right?
Sonnen: No, I certainty wouldn’t. I want to get in and out. I hear guys saying, “I want to go in there and put on a show. It’s for the fans.” Those guys are called “opponents.” The champions don’t speak stupid rubbish like that. I’m not going in there for the fans. I’m not going in there to put on a show. I’m going in there to win a fight, like everybody else that has any success in this sport. The opponents, the mid-carders that talk about putting a show, let them keep lying.
MMAWeekly: Should all go well against Kyacey, what do you want to do next?
Sonnen: I just want to keep trying to improve and compete hard. I just want to keep it as simple as that. I don’t think that there’s just one more step, the shot at Trevor (Prangley, BodogFight’s middleweight champion). Bodog has teamed up with Strikeforce now and I want Frank Shamrock.
If people agree with you and I’m in the spot where I’m one of the guys at the top, then give me him. I’d rather face him than another rematch with Trevor right now. So if that’s an opportunity, and I have the good fortune to get past Kyacey, I’m going to pick on Frank and make his life as miserable as I can until he either steps up and fights or he says, “No, I don’t want to fight that guy.” If he says that, I’ll take it too. I’m not a bully; to keep picking on him if he says, “No,” but I’m not also one of those guys that is swinging on the memory of Frank Shamrock.
MMAWeekly: Thanks for your time as always, Chael. Is there anything you want to say in conclusion?
Sonnen: I would like to thank Equity Options, John L. Scott Real Estate, and Dirty Boxer. I’d love it if the fans would come out and see this. I think it’s a good opportunity to see good action, and it’s a good opportunity for me and Kyacey to show off in front of the home crowd.