Team Quest’s Chael Sonnen has had quite a year. Not only has he become successful in his personal business life, but his professional career as a fighter he saw opportunities arise and doors open for him after years of hard work. Include the fact that he’s also a successful promoter of arguably the country’s top amateur promotions, the FCFF, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he was content with where he’s at.
But alas, Sonnen is not. Chael continues to push himself and his endeavors to the best of his ability and hopes to make this year even better than last. Recently Sonnen had the opportunity to talk to MMA Weekly about his year, his goals for 2006 and the retirement of a longtime teammate and friend.
“I had a great year; I consider 2005 the best year of my life so far,” proclaimed Chael. “I started a new career in real estate and it’s booming right now, especially where I am. I’m running shows and helping out the amateurs. Again thanks to the UFC there’s been a trickle down effect to the small shows and we’re seeing a lot of interest. We sold out eight out of eight shows in 2005, which is terribly exciting. Fight-wise some doors opened and opportunities were there also in 2005, so it was a great year all around.”
In the ring Sonnen went 2-1, including a win that, according to his mentor, was the best of his career. “I felt my performances were very good. I had one match out in Euphoria that Matt Lindland often refers to as the best match he’s ever seen me have, so I feel good about that. I competed in the UFC, and again I trained hard and went in with a good strong mind and fought as hard as I could and so I don’t have too many regrets year either.”
Chael continued, “There’s always stuff to build on; you’re always evolving. As soon as I quit wanting to do better and get better, I’ll move on. I’m not in this sport for the money; I’m in it for the accomplishment. So yeah I’m definitely going to keep working to get better. If I lose the motivation to do that is when I’ll move on to the next chapter in my life.”
As for fighting this year, Sonnen has it on good authority that he may be returning to the UFC sooner than later and in a new division. “The word from Joe Silva – and you can’t get a better word than from his mouth – in April at Arrowhead Pond I’ll be fighting Trevor Prangley. We’re in discussions, they haven’t sent me any paperwork over (and) I don’t have a contract (signed).”
Sonnen further commented, “If discussions come through and we end up with Trevor Prangley that’ll be down a weightclass at middleweight. I’ve never lost a fight at middleweight. It’ll be kind of a breath of fresh air and a new start even. Trevor is one of the top guys, he’s close to 4-0 and should have won that Horn fight, but came up a little bit short on the judges’ cards. If it comes through it will be a great opportunity.”
For the majority of the last few years, Sonnen has fought at light-heavyweight, despite sometimes weighing in at less than 200lbs. Even though he enjoys stepping up to the challenge of facing bigger fighters, Sonnen is pleased with the prospects he has coming at 185lbs.
“I’ll stay at middleweight is all goes well, that’s where they want me,” admitted Chael. “You know in my heart I want to be a light-heavyweight, in my heart I want to fight Chuck Liddell and avenge Randy (Couture), I have fantasies of that when I go to sleep at night. Right now they’re saying 185 and they’re in charge. A world title at 185 is pretty realistic. I think if you tell Rich Franklin I’m coming down to 185, he’s one to say, ‘He’s automatically going to be a player at that weightclass.’ I’ve trained with (Matt) Lindland and (Dan) Henderson daily since the beginning of both their fight careers, let alone my own. They’re recognized as two of the top 185lbers on the planet, so I know I stack up at 185.”
Sonnen continued, “So I’m really excited about the chances of getting down there and getting back in the right and that’s about it. I’m a UFC snob now, I’m only fighting there, if they don’t call, then like I said I’ll move on to the next chapter of my life. For now as far as how much I’ll fight, I’ll fight as many times as they call me, if it’s zero, it’s zero, if it’s five times, it’s five times.”
Most recently Sonnen was in attendance at UFC 57 when longtime teammate and friend Randy Couture retired after his loss to Chuck Liddell in the evening’s main event. For Sonnen, his feelings over Randy’s retirement are not those sadness, but of happiness in looking back over Couture’s accomplishments and future prospects.
“I have no feelings of any type of sorrow for what happened, I’m simply proud of him,” explained Chael. “I’m honored I was there and I don’t say it as a cliché, I don’t know any stronger words, I’m honored and proud of Randy. Randy’s done all he needs to do athletically. Down the road no one is going to remember how he went out, they’re going to remember he was a World Champion many times. That’s how I remember him, as the best fighter to ever wear gloves and a mouthpiece.”
Sonnen added, “I’m excited for Randy, he’s always up to something, he’s made some great connections. He’s very likable and personable, I know great things are going to happen to him in the next chapter of his life. He’s one of the few guys that don’t have to get in the ring to be successful. There’s plenty of other things he can do. He’s just a great guy and I’m proud of him.”
Chael closed out the conversation by noting how things are seemingly coming full circle for him. His FCFF promotion will be returning to a venue in Portland, Oregon that ironically housed the first match up between Sonnen and his proposed future opponent, Trevor Prangley.
“We’ve got a show on February 25th at the Roseland Ballroom. Some tickets are left but they’re going quickly. This is the show that Chris Leben, Matt Horwich, Kasey Uscola, Ed Herman, Nate Quarry, and myself got started. You know Trevor and I fought in front of about 70 people in 1999 at the Roseland. We went out and fought there and now we’re going to do it on the biggest stage in the world. I’m changing weights, coming down to 185, I haven’t been beat at 185 before and I see good things for my future,” concluded Chael.