by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
After a couple of false starts, World Extreme Cagefighting middleweight champion Paulo Filho this week officially withdrew from his scheduled March 26 title defense against Chael Sonnen.

The Brazilian fighter reportedly has had recent bouts with depression and substance abuse. He voluntarily checked himself into a rehabilitation center on Thursday morning, according to the WEC.

Despite the bout with Filho being pulled from the fight card, Sonnen told MMAWeekly Radio on Friday night that he still wants to compete for the promotion on March 26.

“As far as I’m concerned, yes, I’m still going to be a member of that event,” he stated.
“(Everything) is there logistically, but we need another (opponent). I don’t think that’s going to be too hard to find… and we’re flexible to go up to light heavyweight or stay down at middleweight.”

Of course, Sonnen does have to wait until the WEC determines a suitable opponent, but he doesn’t seem overly concerned that they’ll have much difficulty.

“I’m just kind of in limbo waiting. It’s Zuffa… they’ve got a lot of guys under contract. I’m pretty optimistic they’re going to be able to find somebody and keep me on the card.”

Many fighters scheduled to challenge for a title would automatically opt to wait out the situation to be assured of their shot at the belt. Sonnen isn’t that type of fighter though, and he had some strong reasons as to why.

“Here’s the problem. Paulo told a lie,” said Sonnen bluntly. “And the lie was, ‘I’m going to fight you March 26,’ but in the same sentence he says, ‘but I’ll fight you in June.’ What do you do? Do you take the word of a liar and wait until June? No, I don’t have any interest in waiting around for Paulo or waiting around until June.

“That doesn’t mean that isn’t what I’ll have to do. That’s up to the WEC, I don’t make the decisions, but that’s not what I want to do. I want to get in there and compete.”

Of course, if Filho is able to return in June, and if Sonnen gets a fight on March 26 and wins, there is the possibility that things could fall into place for Sonnen to challenge for the title upon Filho’s return.

Sonnen was rather matter-of-fact about any title scenarios though, saying, ” I’ve got a goal to beat Paulo in the ring, but that’s it. I don’t have a goal to beat him in life or for him to have a bad life. Sounds like he’s maybe got a couple of things that he’s working on outside of the ring and I really hope that goes well for him.

“If the title shot comes, great. If he’s not ready to compete by then, and I’m purely speculating, what I would think is that at some point, (the WEC is) going to have to take that title away if he’s not ever going to get in the ring.”

But that’s all speculation. For now, Sonnen is still planning, training, and focusing for March 26.

“I’m pretty confident that by Monday I’ll not only be on the card, but I’ll have an opponent.”