Controversy swirls from Chael P Sonnen like a wind blowing into town. The 40-year-old is like a verbal gunslinger. Here he lets rip with Gareth A Davies…
Controversy swirls from Chael Sonnen like a wind blowing into town. The 40-year-old is like a verbal gunslinger. The mixed martial artist’s latest prognostication – as claims continue to be made that he may fight the ageing Chuck Liddell in Bellator some time soon – is that disgraced MMA wunderkind Jon Jones ‘is a punk kid’ and that POTUS, AKA Donald Trump, is simply ‘a man of his word’. Please read on.
As a commentator on ESPN’s coverage of Floyd Mayweather versus Conor McGregor, ten days ago, Sonnen hardly held back his thoughts that ‘boxing is a real sport’ and his own sport, MMA, is just a developing fight night experience, populated by sportspeople in search of their own authorship.
Yet he was halted, just briefly, by the exasperated Teddy Atlas blowing up with out of his depth analyst Stephen A Smith on the hilarious post-fight broadcast. Even Sonnen went quiet as Atlas and Smith blew their own respective gaskets trying to explain that Mayweather was reduced from being a Ferrari-type boxer against McGregor to a thumping truck, as the gulf in levels dragged the boxer to throw ungainly, brawling punches for the first time in his career.
Sonnen, of course, took part in a series of The Celebrity Apprentice in the USA, though Trump was not the man to fire the contestants in that grand episode. So what of Trump, from the motormouth mixed martial artist ? “He’s doing an absolutely outstanding job. He’s a man of his word. That doesn’t come from a political stance. Barack Obama was a man of his word, a man of honour and integrity, who told us what he was going to do before he went in there and he followed through on his word.
“You may agree or disagree with him, but Barack Obama was a stand-up dude that never lied to anybody and Trump is doing the same thing. You may not like what he’s doing, but he did tell us ahead of time that this is what I’m going to do. It really doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on, you cannot deny that about President Obama and you cannot deny that about Donald Trump. They are sincere men.”
Talking of Trump, it begs the question about his time on ‘The Apprentice’, the show that arguably jettisoned Trump into global prominence as an intriguing character to the public. “I loved it. It was the ultimate gain. Think of how much fun you’ve had and how many great memories you’ve had in your life playing games, and most of those games that really enjoyed were free… hide and seek with your relatives at a holiday gathering, maybe a game of tag, dodgeball in PE class, then as you get older you play more extensive games like blackjack or some poker or a game of golf where you’ve got to throw down 30 or 40 bucks…”
He was fired by host Arnold Schwarzenegger in the show’s 4th week after it emerged that he had deliberately cut his team’s computer cord in order to gain them more time. Yet he loved the concept. “Imagine a game that costs ten million dollars to produce and NBC foot the bill and we all get to go out and play. It was a vicious ‘set them up, stab them in the back’ game and everybody who understood that had a great time. Everybody else is miserable and hateful. They didn’t understand the game. It was just a game, it just happened to have some really freaking vicious rules. It’s still just a game. Let’s just go out and play. Those of us who understood that will be lifelong friends and have great memories.”
Sonnen, now a central figure in the burgeoning Bellator MMA set-up, and on a self-proclaimed ‘legends ass-whupping tour’, had plenty to say this week on the MMA Hour about disgraced Jon Jones, facing a lengthy ban after yet another positive doping test, coming just after he had won back his UFC light-heavyweight crown.
“All I can tell you is I had a higher juice concentrate than Tropicana and he pushed me around like Mack truck vs. a Volvo, so I think for the better part of his career, that seems to be how it works,” Sonnen told The MMA Hour. “I know for me, I know exactly the day I started taking banned substances, but I would never deny it. I’ve been competing since I was nine years old and if somebody wanted to go, ‘His whole career is in question,’ it’s like yeah… If you did a dishonest act, sometimes the most honest thing you can do is just say, ‘Yeah, you got me.’”
Speaking to Telegraph Sport, Sonnen added that despite allegations now being claimed against Jones, the 30-year-old still ranks as arguably the best ever in MMA. “It’s shocking to me when that debate comes up. There’s not even a close second. The guy’s a knucklehead so people try to hold him down. That’s not going to change. He is a knucklehead. He wants to be a role model, but he’s none of those things. He’s an idiot. But as far as his skill set there has never been anybody that’s as good as that guy. It’s not even close.”
Sonnen explained, having fought Jones four years ago: “I fought for five world championships. I have beaten a champion from every organisation that has ever had any meaning out there. I was the first athlete in history to be ranked in the top ten in two different weight classes at the same time. When I fought Jon Jones, I had no chance. Every fight I’ve ever lost in my life I’ve wanted a rematch. Let me try again, I can do better, close the gap. I can beat him. Except one and it was Jon Jones. I got out of the ring with him and I was like, ok, I’m going to go over here and stand in the corner, you go on and become world champion.”
“I get it. You’re the best. That’s just simply the truth. As far as his persona, I’m glad he’s finally embracing it. Jon, don’t try to fool us, you’re not smart enough, man. You’re a dumb dumb and we’re not. We’re going to see right through your crap every time. But go ahead and be a punk kid that also happens to be the baddest dude walking the planet. Enjoy it. It’s going to be over soon. He burst on the scene and he was 24 years old. He’s 30 years old now. It seems like he just broke out yesterday and was beating up Bonnar and doing all that stuff we saw him do. But he’s halfway through his career or more. Jon, just enjoy it. From a PR standpoint don’t try to fool us.”
Sonnen also had plenty to say about the sport which has made him famous, after a formidable career as a wrestler, and on the controversial subject of MMA fighters cutting weight by huge amounts in the final few days before a fight.
On the subject of MMA being barred as research into head and brain issues increases, as its profile and roster of thrilling exponents grows, he surmised that the sport might be modified: “I don’t believe anybody will try to stop it, but they might change some of the rules. They might modify it. Who knows where that will go. Does that mean a bigger glove? Does that mean head gear? Now we’re seeing amateur boxing right up to the IOC, which is the most reputable sports agency in the world, and they’ve taken the head gear out for the boxers. They say that’s more safe. I don’t know if anybody can prove one way or another, but I do think Dana White (the UFC president) makes a fair point when he says ‘nobody is saying this sport is good for you’. That’s a really true statement. We don’t know what effect it has on the brain.”
“MMA in the short term appears to be a lot safer than boxing. It also appears to be safer than (American) football. I’m not willing to make either one of those statements because we need about another hundred years to have a focus group to study. But I don’t think they’ll go to the point of trying to ban it. But if anybody has got suggestions to scientifically prove it’s better for safety I think we’re all open to that.”
And on weight cuts, he is unmoved. “I can’t think of anything more healthy. I hear the complaints – it is a little bit weird. In America we’re the most obese country in the world. You’ve got a guy who is in shape and now you’re telling him he’s too in shape. Diet and exercise, they love to say how great that is, but now he’s doing too much diet and exercise. You’re scratching your head and going, erm, what’s the answer here? This guy looks like the epitome of healthy to me. I would never be insensitive to the reality that dehydrating yourself and doing things too rapidly and foolishly are dangerous. I’m just speaking to the overall picture of a grown man or an adult choosing a weight class and then being disciplined to make said weight class.”
“That’s a pretty cool thing. When you’re stepping into a society that has legalised dope. Are you now going to tell me you’re going to regulate how much weight a person can lose? Every time I turn on the TV everybody, including the first lady of the United States, is telling us we need to lose weight. I find it very peculiar and odd that any government agency could tell a guy how much weight he can lose. I find it really bizarre.” Just like every grilling Sonnen gives interviewers. The 40-year-old’s next opponent in Bellator MMA is set to be announced soon.