Chael Sonnen’s mouth is where the money’s at in Bellator’s heavyweight tourney

Chael Sonnen, left, trades punches with Wanderlei Silva at Bellator 180 on June 25 in New York.
Chael Sonnen, left, trades punches with Wanderlei Silva at Bellator 180 on June 25 in New York.
(Gregory Payan / Associated Press)

Chael Sonnen has never shied away from talking or a challenge, so now he’s ringing in age 40 by entering the Bellator MMA heavyweight tournament.

Sonnen (29-15-1) is the oldest man on Saturday’s Bellator 192 card at the Forum, and, of course, “The American Gangster” is not downplaying the situation.

“This sport, I largely do it because I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed with the prima-donnas, the fake tough guys that want to be a big deal in their local strip club, but don’t really want to get in there and fight anybody,” Sonnen told The Times in an engaging interview inside his hotel suite in which he displayed the verbal gifts that influenced Conor McGregor and others.

“That’s a big part of what’s kept me around: to set an example to these wimps.”


In the opening bout of the eight-fighter tournament that will continue at later dates, Sonnen, a former UFC middleweight title contender, meets 39-year-old ex-UFC light-heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. The new Paramount Network (formerly Spike TV) will televise the card.

Jackson is irked at being assigned wrestlers like the former All-American Oregon product Sonnen, who avoids standing and striking. Sonnen is giving away close to 40 pounds and hasn’t concealed his strategy.

Jackson’s fixation inspired him to challenge Sonnen to a side wager, with Jackson claiming he’ll give Sonnen $10,000 for each takedown that Sonnen can secure. Jackson teased Wednesday that Sonnen couldn’t accept the bet until his wife gave him permission.

“We shook hands. There’s a code among men … So a deal is a deal,” Sonnen answered.


A pro fighter’s shelf life can be short, and Sonnen looked awful last year in losing at the Forum to Tito Ortiz in his farewell fight.

“I’m just getting warmed up,” Sonnen said. “I expect to win on Saturday, then I expect to win in the semifinals and advance from there, but we’ll certainly see what happens.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be a rude awakening or if it’s going to be pleasant. I don’t know what I’m getting myself into. I’ve never fought with a heavyweight before. I’ve barely even sparred with some heavyweights, so there’s some unknowns.”

Sonnen is viewing the tournament as a back-to-the-future experience when weight classes didn’t exist in the UFC.


“When I started fighting in 1997, I had four or five fights before I even saw a scale. I don’t know a whole lot about that whole what-a-guy-weighs routine, and I don’t even know if it’s that much of an advantage.”

“At some point in time, some guys’ kid got his butt kicked and he had to explain it his buddies, so he just said, ‘Junior lost to a guy that was bigger than him.’ The truth was Junior was just a wimp.”

That itch to fight — and the pay — lures Sonnen even as he’s worked in broadcasting and dabbled in numerous business ventures outside of the cage.“I tried to retire before … I was happy, I had all this free time on my hands, and within two weeks, I was bored out of my mind,” he said.

That’s a big part of what’s kept me around: to set an example to these wimps.

Chael Sonnen


Some don’t care for Bellator’s nostalgia fights with old-timers, but Sonnen’s age doesn’t look ancient when he notes UFC light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, who defends his belt Saturday in Boston, was in Sonnen’s class in college.

And the Forum is close to being sold out.

“You can say my record’s not great, but I’ve fought 12 champions and I’ve beaten eight of them,” Sonnen said. “When you put it on the line, time after time like I do, you’re going to have some losses. When you have an undefeated record like a Floyd Mayweather, it’s because you’re a wimp. If you’re undefeated, either your sport [stinks], or you’re out there ducking and dodging.

“You’re only going to be alive for so long, so if you can compete in a sport — don’t forget, sports are for kids – and if you’re lucky enough to do that as an adult, you’re just that: Lucky.


“I will leave face down and embarrassed, the only way you should leave sports.”