UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen has been retired/suspeneded from the sport for the past two years, that doesn't mean he can't dream. Especially since his suspension will finally be lifted in July.
Sonnen has made it clear that his gloves are hung up for good. Although, if you ask his manager, Mike Roberts, Sonnen could return to the Octagon if the fight is right. But what would Sonnen consider a "right fight?"
Sonnen sat down on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour and chatted about what it would take to get him back in the cage and by the end, he provided fight fans with a list of five names that would be "right" enough to pull him out of retirement. First up? UFC legend and greatest welterweight of all time: Georges St-Pierre.
"I would love to kick Georges' ass," said Sonnen. A statement that Sonen can actually back up, sort of.
"I'll tell you this. This is a true story. I got a call one day and it was from Kenny Florian, and he says ‘hey, you want to work out?' I was in LA and I said yeah, and he goes, ‘okay, well Georges is in town. Do you want to work out with Georges?' And I said yeah. So we go to this gym."
"We went hard. I think I could've gone harder, but we went hard, and I came in second. And it drove me nuts, man. It drove me nuts. But I really think I could've done better. It was close. It was fine," remembered Sonnen. "If you ask him, he might try to put me over. I'm not trying to put him over right now, I'm just telling you what happened. He won that go, but I could've done better with him, and it's driven me nuts ever since. I thought, man, I could've gotten that guy. I could've done better."
"He knew he got the best of me," continued Sonnen. "So at the end of the workout, he tried to pay me a compliment. He goes, ‘thanks for not using your size; if you would've used your size, you really could've crushed me,' which was really his way of saying, ‘hey man, I just beat you.' And I knew what he meant, and I knew it was meant to be a nice thing. It stuck with me, man. This is a workout that was years ago and it stuck with me."
St-Pierre is pretty much in the same boat as Sonnen. He too left the sport a couple of years ago, announced his retirement and has stated that he would get back in the Octagon for the "right fight." A fight that could be billed as a "dual comeback" would, not only be titilating to fans, but could be quite lucrative to everyone involved.
"Everyone would watch that," said Sonnen, but quickly added: "... I'm not trying to hype a fight with Georges here. I'm just saying. But yes, as far as a fight, if you're just looking at what could sell tickets, yeah man."
Sonnen has been known to be quite the promoter in his days in the UFC. This largely was due to his long time rivalry with then UFC middleweight titleholder, Anderson Silva. Silva defeated Sonnen in both of their meetings, but the fights launched the rivals in to the upper echelon of superstardom. It's no surprise that a third meeting with Silva made Sonnen's "right fight" list.
"It'd be real hard to not go in and whip Anderson's ass a third time," exclaimed Sonnen. "That's a tough one. Anderson was never a hard fight for me. It was hard to get my hand raised. That son of a b*tch always knew how to get his hand raised, but I whipped that guy, man. I whipped that guy so easily. Look, I fought 49 men. I've had three 10-8 rounds. They're all against him. I mean, I tip my hat. That guy, he beat me fair and square and he got his hand raised. I don't mean anything about it, good for you Anderson. But it's hard. It's hard to not want (it back)."
There was one name that Sonnen threw out that might come as a bit of a surprise to most fans, but isn't that odd when you think about it. That name? Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Sonnen has had his fair share of run-ins with the Noguerira brothers. He once claimed that he saw the younger Nogueria try to give a carrot to a buss while the older Nogueria tried to pet it. Clearly the brothers were confused by the machine, thinking it was a horse. (Zing!)
"I'm a big believer, if you're going to do it, man, you go after number-one," Stated Sonnen. "That's it. You go after number-one. You don't be a bully and a dick and do all these things. I really think that, but again, if we're doing this, I would add 'Lil Nog' (Antonio Rogerio Nogueira) to the list. 'Lil Nog' is back, I don't know how. He's back from the dead. He looks like he's dead, but he went out there and he won. He beat Patrick Cummins, who's a former teammate of mine. Patrick Cummins is a tough guy and he beat him. So I would add Lil Nog to that list, if we're just playing make-believe right now."
And that's all that Sonnen was doing, playing the "what if" game, but that doesn't mean IF one of these fights were to come to fruition, he wouldn't know how to promote the hell out of it.
"I'll come and build these other guys up as much as you guys want," said Sonnen. "The truth is, I will sell out these arenas faster than anybody, the same as I used to. I will sell out the t-shirts. I will sell them all out faster than anyone. Look, it's the reality of the situation. A comeback fight is a tremendously big fight and you only get one of them. I'm not coming back. But if I did, if I were to do it, I would know how to do it."
Sonnen feels that many of today's fighters are missing the art of promotion. After all, while fighting is the product, it still has to be sold and it takes knowing the business to make that happen. "There's not very many people that can do this business very well," Sonnen said. "It's a unique business. Conor (McGregor) does a really good job. He read the playbook, he gets it, and then he's added to it. Conor's got stuff where I would be like, oh, I see what you did there. But there's just not very many guys who get it."
McGregor and Sonnen will never meet in the Octagon, but it would be fun to see who the undisputed champ of promotion is. I'm fairly sure that fight would go the distance. As for the rest of Sonnen's list of "right fights?" No surprise to see Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort round out the five.
Which one of Sonnen's match-ups would YOU like to see?