LOS ANGELES – Chael Sonnen watched his friend and training partner, Dan Henderson, get knocked out by Vitor Belfort last Saturday at UFC Fight Night 32. The loss was tough to watch and one Sonnen said he wishes didn’t happen, but it’s part of the sport.
The good news for Sonnen is that he can exact revenge in the most direct way possible – a fight. Once he gets through Rashad Evans at UFC 167 and Wanderlei Silva at a later card, Sonnen said he plans on returning to middleweight and fighting Belfort for some payback on behalf of his friends.
“I just don’t like him,” Sonnen said of Belfort at a recent media luncheon. “I’m not into the whole schtick. I’m not into the whole bringing Jesus into the Octagon and acting like he’s helping you knock another man to sleep. I’m not into a lot of the hypocrisy, plus he’s fought a lot of friends of mine, and he’s hurt some of them. So it’s also a revenge factor.”
Belfort beat Henderson in the first round of their main event last Saturday night in Goiania, Goiás, Brazil. For the third fight in a row, Belfort landed a head kick that led to a knockout victory. Additionally, the knockout was the first suffered by Henderson in his 16-plus-year career.
While he isn’t the biggest fan of Belfort, Sonnen said he recognizes the recent rise of “The Phenom,” giving credit to the Brazilian fighter for his dominant performances of late.
“I haven’t been crazy about Vitor for a considerable period of time,” he said. “But I do recognize how good he is, I do recognize how dangerous he is, experienced, explosive, you can go on and on.”
This Saturday’s UFC 167 bout with Evans will be Sonnen’s third consecutive fight at light heavyweight. The stay in the 205-pound division is a temporary one, Sonnen said, and the move back to 185 pounds is something he’s been planning all along.
The only reason Sonnen hasn’t gone to middleweight any sooner is because the recent light heavyweight bout agreements he signed just fell in his lap. For the most part, the contests at 205 pounds were unexpected, but he didn’t hesitate on signing the contracts.
“That was kind of the plan all along,” Sonnen said about returning to middleweight. “I had a couple of matches (at 205 pounds) sprung on me and I agreed to them. So I postponed it. When I’m done with Wanderlei, I’ll go back to 185.”
Sonnen has compartmentalized his future fights, allowing him to focus on Evans until Saturday, then Silva and coaching TUF Brasil 3 thereafter. While those fights have mostly materialized, Sonnen said he imagines a face-off with Belfort can’t be too far down the line. Once that match materializes, he’ll find the opportunity to get the revenge he’s been looking for since Henderson fell to Belfort Saturday.
“I couldn’t imagine not fighting Vitor,” he said. “He’s doing a good job. I don’t know what’s next for him. But he and I will eventually cross paths, yes, absolutely.”
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