by Mick Hammond
There are as few fighters in the sport of MMA as genuine and honest as Chael Sonnen. Whether he’s talking smack about an opponent or being candid about his career and those around him, Sonnen is rarely hesitant to speak the truth. After many months of inactivity Sonnen is preparing to return to competition at the upcoming Sportfight Rumble at the Rose Garden show slated to take place on July 9th. This show will mark the first time in nearly a year Sonnen has participated in the event run by fellow Team Quest training partners Matt Lindland and Randy Couture.
When asked what he’s been doing since his last fight in February, Sonnen told MMA Weekly, “Just more of the same. It’s hard to believe that my last fight was that long ago, it seems like just the other day. I’ve kept busy working, training and I haven’t changed my routine much at all.”
While Sonnen remains a constant, it seems like things have begun to transition around him. “Well a lot of my workout partners are gone now,” said Sonnen. “We lost Evan (Tanner) last year and Randy (Couture) is down in Vegas right now. The gym has been completely remodeled and we’ve got new guys coming in. It’s different around here than it was.”
At Sportfight Sonnen will be facing off against Tim Williams, a relative unknown from Texas. Even though little is known about Williams, Sonnen is unfazed and understands the lack of knowledge of opponents is a commonplace occurrence in MMA. “That’s how it always goes, basically they give and opponent and I have to deal with it. I rarely know the guy unless I’ve seen him on a big show because getting tape or information on opponents from promoters is like pulling your hair out sometimes.”
For this fight the weight limit has been set below the 205lb limit for light-heavyweight, but above the 185lb limit for middleweight. This is due to the fact that for most of his career Chael has hovered between the two weight classes because he’s often shot down suggestions to fight at middleweight because he’d rather challenge himself at the higher weight class. “There’s always talk of moving down, but I haven’t changed weights. Sportfight is at 195lbs, it’s still light-heavyweight, but I’ve had lots of those fights where the weight isn’t at a traditional limit. I normally weight between 194-197lbs and the lowest I’ve fought was about 190lbs so I don’t know if I’m going to 185lbs or not.”
Sonnen is one of majority of fighters that have to supplement their income by having a day job, as even though the sport grows in popularity, most fighters aren’t able to support themselves monetarily via fighting alone. “You have to chalk fighting up to being a hobby sometimes. No matter what, even if you’re in the big shows, the money isn’t enough to allow you to just fight. Even the big shows guys are broke, that’s why they have to take smaller fights in between the big show stuff just to sustain a living.”
Chael continued, “Don’t get me wrong, I like to compete and have something specific to train for, but at the same time not going to hold my breath or anticipate anything, nothing is guaranteed in this business right now. If I got 5 phone calls from people asking me to come out and compete I would, but fighters don’t make those decisions, management and promoters ultimately decide who fights when and how often.”
The plight of a promoter is something that Sonnen is familiar with, having operated his own amateur FCFF show the last few years. “We’ve had three shows this year and are going to have five more,” commented Sonnen. “We’ve booked four already and are just looking for one more. If things continue to go well we may add a couple more. Right now the sport is good, we’ve sold out all three shows and that’s always our goal going into a show.”
Sonnen added, “I have a good time helping promote the amateur fighters. There’s been a lot of talk whether or not to bring in pro bouts in addition to our amateurs right now. We got the laws changed in the State to regulate MMA and have been licensed to have pro bouts; we just haven’t done it yet. To be honest we are considered the top amateur show in the country and I like that. We’ve got guys coming from all over to compete at our shows because we put on a professional level show and give these guys a good safe environment to compete in. We easily spend between 15-18 grand on production with a cage and all the lights and sounds you would get at a major pro event. At other amateur shows they just put up a ring and chairs and call it a show and don’t care about the safety of the fighters. We make sure everything is regulated and that there are strict rules we adhere to, to make sure everyone is protected. That’s why I believe we are going to stay an amateur show, to keep doing what’s right by these fighters who are looking to gain experience in the sport.”
The conversation concluded with Chael saying, “Sportfight is going to be a great show for me. When I travel I usually get a big pack of fans that come with me when I fight somewhere else. Now that I’m fighting in my home state, I’m going to have even more people there supporting me, that’s why I wanted to get on the card. I urge everyone to come support the event and not just my fight, there’s lots of other exciting fights on the card as well, it’s going to be huge night for me and everyone there.”
For more information on Sportfight, people can go to www.sportfight.tv for further info on the card. People in the Northwest interested in the upcoming FCFF show can go to www.thefcff.com for ticket information on the upcoming July 16th edition taking place once again at the Roseland Ballroom in Portland, Oregon.