It’s been a long year for Chael Sonnen.
He had a stellar performance against Anderson Silva at UFC 117 pulled out from under him when the champ submitted him with an armbar/triangle combination late in the fifth round.
Sonnen later plead guilty to Federal charges of money laundering in relation to his real estate business, which helped sideline plans to make a run in politics.
He was suspended by the state of California due to issues over his medical use of testosterone surrounding the Silva fight and that usage was reported to the California State Athletic Commission.
“I got put in timeout for a while, but I’m back and I’ll deal with it,” quipped Sonnen on Wednesday.
So it has been more than a year, a year that was full of turmoil, since Sonnen last set foot in the Octagon. But he returns on Saturday night at UFC 136 in Houston. It’s no tune-up fight either. The UFC is sending in the Marines to welcome Sonnen back. Well, one Marine in particular, Top 10 middleweight Brian Stann.
It’s a tough fight for sure. Stann is riding the crest of a three-fight winning streak since making the move down to middleweight. That success is a culmination of the drop down to a division where he’s one of the bigger fighters and the time he’s spent the past couple of years training at Jackson’s in Albuquerque, N.M., added to the mental fortitude from his time fighting real wars overseas as a Marine.
Sonnen knows what he’s in for. He expects Stann to be one of the toughest fighters he’s ever faced. And he knows his time out of the Octagon doesn’t exactly play to his favor, but he also is prepared to deal with it.
“I think ring rust is a real thing. I’ve accepted it and I’ll have to deal with it,” said Sonnen. “The next fight is always the next fight. There’s no telling when that’s gonna be. Whether you’re lucky and it’s three months away like it’s supposed to be or you gotta wait a little bit. I’m not the only one. Frankie and Gray have been out for 10 months, too.
“I’ve never been the victim. I’m not gonna complain. I’ll deal with what comes and take care of business to the best of my ability.”
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t questions in his mind.
Sonnen has always been confident laying the smack down when it comes to the trash talk that so often ensues leading up to a fight, but that trash talk doesn’t necessarily win the battle in the cage, and he knows it. And with Stann, Sonnen has too much respect to whittle away at him the way he has done with so many others.
The fact is Sonnen has to perform in the Octagon. Despite being regarded as one of the top middleweight fighters in the world, he’s never been comfortable standing pat. His talk outside the cage doesn’t lead to bravado in the cage, fooling Sonnen into believing that he can’t always do a little better than before.
“There’s always doubts. There’s no position in the Octagon that I’m comfortable in. I’m never secure out there. Every day I try to get better at everything, a little stronger, a little faster, a little better shape,” he admitted.
“There’s always doubts. That’s part of it. What fun would this be if you knew the outcome? What fun this be if it wasn’t all on the line? I love going to the ring hurt or sick or tired and trying to figure out how to win anyway. I saw the ride and I bought a ticket anyway.
“When that guy in the shark suit gets out of the ring and the guy with the dreadlocks says fight, I will.”