Chael Sonnen is confident winning the Bellator heavyweight grand prix tournament would represent the most significant achievement of his storied career. However, even if that happens, he said he wouldn’t attempt to leave the sport on a high.
The eight-man tournament, which will crown the next Bellator heavyweight champion, begins on Jan. 20 when Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) meets Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) in an opening-round bout at Bellator 192, which takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., and airs on the Paramount Network following prelims on MMAjunkie.
Currently, the organization plans for the tournament to unfold over the course of the year before crowning a champion by December. Sonnen has been pegged by oddsmakers as one of the least likely to win it all, but naturally, his plan is to run the table and claim the vacant championship belt.
Should Sonnen’s vision come to fruition, though, he said he wouldn’t retire on the heels of his biggest combat sports accomplishment. Sonnen is not the type who believes a fighter should go out on a high, and although he would certainly pursue trying to make it happen, he’s also very understanding to the realities of fighting.
“I definitely would not go anywhere else or use (winning the tournament) as a negotiation tool, I want to make that really clear,” Sonnen said on today’s Bellator 192 conference call. “I’m completely loyal to Bellator and would not even consider anything else. I’m a traditionalist and a fan first. I really believe that you’ve got to defend (the title). I don’t feel anybody should go out on top.
“Georges St-Pierre is one of them, but he gave them every chance in the world to beat him. He gave guys rematches, and some guys got three matches. He changed weight, he did everything he could do to get beat and pass that torch. He was just that damn good. And aside from him and Lennox Lewis, I can’t think of anyone that goes out on top. We all – all our careers end the same: Face down and embarrassed. And I think I’m going to follow suit on that. I don’t want to leave anything on the table.”
At 40, Sonnen hopes his final moment of disappointment and embarrassment is still far in the offing, because he has every intention of beating former UFC light heavyweight champion “Rampage” at Bellator 192. He knows what he’s up against, though, and that’s an opponent who will likely have a sizable strength and size advantage when the pair step in the cage.
As a former middleweight who has frequently dabbled at 205 pounds, Sonnen is still the least physically imposing figure in the tournament, which also includes lifelong heavyweights such as Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, Fedor Emelianenko and Matt Mitrione. Sonnen considers himself a throwback type of fighter, though, and knows he’ll have to pull out all the stops to not only get past Jackson, but every other potential opponent beyond him, as well.
“I haven’t thought about it being taxing, but it is a first for me,” Sonnen said. “It increases my anxiety. I lay in bed at night and try to work this match through. I’ve got some teammates I work with that are as big as ‘Rampage’ or bigger, and a lot of my techniques don’t work. I’ll do everything perfect and hit those guys and boom, I just get stopped because of the size. It’s a first for me. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed the unknown in the process.
“I don’t totally know what to make about it. I have had a hard time in practice with some of the stuff that I’ve done and fortunately had those bodies to work with. I might have to go to a Plan B or a Plan C here. I don’t fully know what to make about it.”
If Sonnen had his druthers, the entire eight-man Bellator heavyweight grand prix tournament would occur in one night. He understands the logic of why it isn’t, but regardless of the format, Sonnen intends on running the gauntlet in monumental fashion.
“It would be my greatest accomplishment,” Sonnen said. “I’m a tournament guy. That’s what I grew up doing, four or five guys a day. I love this tournament, I wish it was all in one night, that’s old-school. It’s something better to say than actually do. I couldn’t really see anybody in this tournament fighting three other guys in their tournament in one night. But that is the old-school and it sure would be fun. It’d be a huge accomplishment. I love tournaments. They’re super tough. I love fighting these big name guys.”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Chael Sonnen won't retire with Bellator tournament win, will leave MMA 'face down and embarrassed'