There has been a lot of talk in the lead up to UFC 116 about Stephan Bonnar's job security. And quite frankly, many people believe his job in the UFC has been in doubt for quite some time. There is also a group of people who feel as though as long as Mr. Bonnar is fighting, he'll be doing it inside the Ocatgon.
Stephan himself isn't so sure.
On the heels of the UFC's decision to release the popular Keith Jardine after suffering a fourth straight loss inside the Octagon, "The American Psycho" knows that a fourth consecutive defeat of his own could very well signal the end of his time with Zuffa.
The man he has to defeat in order to feel comfortable about his future in the fight game is a man he's familiar with. Having just fought Krzysztof Soszynski at UFC 110 with the fight being stopped due to a cut and Stephan taking the controversial loss, Bonnar feels confident things will be different this time around.
With his career possibly on the line this Saturday night [July 3], Stephan Bonnar joined MMAmania.com to talk about whether he feels this is a do or die fight for him, everything he's involved in outside of the cage, the rematch with Soszynski and more.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Before we get to your fight with Krzysztof Soszynski at UFC 116, I have a few side questions to get out of the way first. Let me get your thoughts on what we saw last Saturday night. Were you in complete shock along with rest of the MMA world, or did you think that Fedor Emelianenko would lose eventually?
Stephan Bonnar: Man, I was in shock like everyone else. It looked like Fedor was gonna run right through Fabricio. He came out and dropped him with the first combination he threw. I think Fedor just thought he was above getting caught in a triangle. He fought some tough submission guys in the past like Antonio Rodrigo Nogeuira, where the opponent would attempt a triangle, but Fedor would just do the same pass every time and get out of it. And he actually did it again against Fabricio. He got out of his first attempt. But then he put himself back in danger; he thought he was just too strong. But hey, Werdum's got a hell of a triangle.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): With this loss, do you feel as though the winner of Lesnar vs. Carwin will be the true number one heavyweight in the world?
Stephan Bonnar: Yeah, for sure. I think the happiest person after Fedor lost was Dana White. He doesn't have to hear about that guy anymore.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Break down how you see the heavyweight title fight playing out.
Stephan Bonnar: It's a tough one to call. I'm actually pretty used to breaking down fights but this one is tough. You know, with Lesnar, you have to worry about his medical issue and his long layoff, we don't really know how he's gonna come back. And he doesn't have a lot of experience to begin with. With Carwin, we've never seen him past the first round. There are a lot of unknowns about Carwin. You can't really break down all his strengths and weaknesses because we don't know him well enough. We know he throws some heavy punches, but that's it. Maybe that'll be enough. I just think the guy to land the first big shot will take it.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): I wanted to get your opinion on the UFC's release of Keith Jardine last week. Were you surprised by the move?
Stephan Bonnar: I kind of was surprised because of the way he lost that fight. He definitely didn't deserve to get that point taken away for the eye poke. It was purely accidental. And the referee didn't even see it at first. Keith could have jumped all over him and finished the fight, but he did the noble thing and pulled off. And that lost point really hurt because it was a close decision. If they had cut him after the way he was stopped against Ryan Bader, you could maybe understand a bit more. But it's a tough call when a guy loses a close decision like that.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): With that being said, are you at all worried about your job security coming into this fight?
Stephan Bonnar: Yeah, I am. It's only fair. You have to give other guys their shot in the UFC. If you're not performing well, you have to go to smaller shows and work your way back up. I always feel pressure when I fight. It's always do or die for me.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): What are your thoughts on Chuck Liddell's future? Obviously you're familiar with Chuck having spent time with him on The Ultimate Fighter 1. He's recently said that he still doesn't think he's done. Do you think it's time for him to hang it up?
Stephan Bonnar: I never say it's time for another fighter to hang it up. It's up to how they feel. I did think we were seeing the best Chuck Liddell we had seen in a while. He was winning that round big, I mean obviously, he broke Franklin's arm. He just got a little too hungry and left himself open. But if he feels like he's still got more fight in him, by all means he should keep fighting. It's not up to us.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): I want to talk for a moment about everything you're involved in outside of your fighting career. First up, what's the status on your commentating duties for the WEC. Can fans expect to see you back cage side in the future?
Stephan Bonnar: I should be back commentating with the WEC. They offered me to do the last show [WEC 49] but I couldn't because of my training camp for this fight. It sounds like they're gonna keep me around. You can expect to see more of me doing more of that.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Talk about your experience on MMA Live. What's it like working for ESPN?
Stephan Bonnar: It's awesome man. I mean, it's what you do all the time with your friends and fans anyway, just breaking down fights. It's what we're doing right now, just talking about MMA. And they're paying me to do that, are you kidding me? To work for ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, and with the show just getting put on TV on ESPN 2, it's a dream come true. Growing up I would always watch NFL live or whatever, and our show is really the same type of show. We use the same set and everything. ESPN is a great company to work for. All the guys over there are great. I consider the main producer a really good friend. I'm having a blast with that.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Alright, and finally, I wanted more about the art company you're involved in; NGAUGE Inc. What's that all about?
Stephan Bonnar: Yeah, I started the company with my life long best friend, Tom Scully, and our artist actually works for Leo Burnett [famed advertising executive], a guy by the name of Joe Morris. How it works is we get an idea for something we want to create, and just explain our vision to him. The last piece we did, called "The Offering," is a memorial piece for Charles "Mask" Lewis. It's awesome. We actually unveiled it at the UFC Fan Expo back in May. It's like ten feet tall. And with that piece, we kind of just talked him through it and told Joe what "Mask" was all about, how he was such an inspiration, and just his overall image. We would just give him a lot of stuff to work with, and he'd come back to us with his ideas. It's mixed media artwork, so there is a lot more to it than just throwing some paint on a canvas. It's a building process. He just keeps gradually tweaking it.
This "Mask" piece meant a lot to me. This is my own way to honor him and share it with the world. It took a good five months to get it perfect. And it is. Usually with our work, we sell them for profit. Lorenzo Fertitta bought the UFC 100 commemorative one, but all the proceeds went to a cancer foundation that was honoring Dana White at the time. We had a Randy Couture piece that was bought by some savant in the stock market industry. He's won stockman of the year like three straight years. And then we just sold the Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida one to their manager Ed Soares. We want these paintings to go in good hands. But as far as this "Mask" piece, I didn't even want any money for it, we unveiled it at the expo to "Skrape" and "Punkass" and they really loved it. I told them I wanted them to have it and they were super excited. They hung it in Charles' office next to his ashes. That to me means more than any amount of money I could get for it.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): That's great to hear Stephan. Let's talk about Krzysztof now. Before the last fight was stopped due to the cut, did you feel as though you were winning the fight or least employing your strategy to that point?
Stephan Bonnar: Well, I know I got off to a pretty slow start as usual. Thank God I have a good chin. If I didn't, I would have been knocked out in every one of my fights in the first minute. He came in right away and landed a bunch of power punches on me. Maybe I'm just too nice. I need to get hit a few times to start fighting. I'm gonna get a quicker start this time, I've been working on that. He probably won that first round, but then I got in my rhythm and I think I won the second round. Dana told me the judges had it even going into the third round. We actually took a picture together back stage after the fight, and both of our faces were pretty busted up. You could tell it was a good scrap.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): How has your training camp differed for this fight as opposed to the last considering you're not having to adjust to a new fighting style?
Stephan Bonnar: It has been a good camp. I feel like I've physically gotten stronger. I think my defensive head movement has improved as well. I've been training with real southpaws this time as opposed to the last camp where I just had guys play southpaw, which obviously isn't the same. I've changed things up a bit.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Will you be bringing a different approach to this rematch as far as what you want to try and get done in there? Do you see this fight being any different than the first?
Stephan Bonnar: It very well could be the same type of fight. I'm cool with that. But I'm a guy who takes advantage of opportunities. If my opponent puts them self in a bad position, I like to make the most of it. If the fight hits the ground and I'm in an advantageous position, I'm not going to stop, stand up, and say let's bang. On the other hand, it's not like I'm gonna waste a bunch of energy going for a takedown. If it's there, fine. If not, we'll just throw punches.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): So how is this fight going to play out? Let's hear a prediction.
Stephan Bonnar: I know I'm gonna get in there and give it everything I have. It's do or die for me. This time it really is. I'm gonna do everything in my power to get the win. That's how I always fight. I don't think he can knock me out, I don't think he can submit me, and I know I'm not gonna get tired. I'm sure he feels the same. I expect it to be fight of the night.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Thanks a lot for your time here Stephan. I want to give you the opportunity to thank any sponsors you have or plug anything you want. How can fans learn more about NGAUGE Inc.?
Stephan Bonnar: Fans can go to ngaugeinc.com. Our work is available at ufcstore.com as well. I want to thank TapouT and Charles. They've been with me since before the first fight with Forrest Griffin. They've believed in me all the way, and that means a lot to me. I want to thank all my coaches and my team too.