by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Chael Sonnen is not someone who easily gives up. His determination both in and out of the cage have lead him to come back from dire circumstances to the pinnacle of his fighting career.
After exiting the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2006, Sonnen went on a tear, winning five fights in a row before losing a controversial bout to Paulo Filho for the World Extreme Cagefighting title in 2007.
Undeterred, he worked his way to a rematch last year and prospered; not only earning redemption, but also a return ticket to the UFC in 2009.
“It was a great year,” said Sonnen looking back on his rollercoaster ride of a year. “I had some great experiences coaching with the International Fight League, getting to compete in the WEC and being signed by the UFC.
“I only had two matches; I get greedy and want to compete a little bit more than that, but that’s the way it goes.”
Sonnen is quick to credit his continued hard work for helping him get back into the sport’s biggest spotlight.
“I’m trying to evolve all the time and keep getting better,” he stated. “I’ve never gotten to a place where to where I’m too comfortable, feel complacent or feel I’ve got this sport figured out.
“I think what happens to a lot of guys is they get complacent. Whether they get money or fame, something happens where they lose that motivation. We’ve all seen it happen, so I plan to avoid that by paying attention to what’s going on, staying motivated and just keep working hard and not lose sight of the goal.”
Part of keeping his future in the UFC in focus is by not looking back on what he’s accomplished and dwelling on it too much.
“It’s kind of behind me,” commented Sonnen of his rematch win over Paulo Filho in November. “I haven’t given it much thought. It’s always important to do a good job, put it in the rear mirror and move forward.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we had it, but I haven’t given it much thought since.”
Sonnen is slated to make his Octagon return on Feb. 21 against undefeated Demian Maia at UFC 95 in London.
“The upside to (Maia) is that he’s fought three of my teammates,” said Sonnen. “I helped every one of them get ready, so I’ve at least got experience in preparing for him and am familiar with him because my teammates competed with him.”
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter to Sonnen who he faces, he’s worked his way back to the pinnacle of the sport and intends to make the most of his second chance.
“I’m excited about it,” he stated. “It’s a really neat opportunity and I’m grateful to have it.
“I want to thank Zuffa for continuing to grow the sport. To the fans, thanks for your support and I’ll see you in 2009.”