It's just business; never personal.
Well, sometimes it's personal, but on Oct. 8 at UFC 136 in Houston, Texas...it won't be. It's been well documented that soon-to-be opponents Chael Sonnen and Brian Stann have a friendship. They were even planning on training together before they found out that they would, in fact, be fighting each other.
Sonnen sat down for a few minutes with ESPN's MMA LIVE to discuss his recent trials and tribulations, his long lay-off, his upcoming match against Stann and his desire to eventually get back into the cage with current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Though many of Sonnen's pre-fight press tours have been chock-full of sound byte hand grenades aimed squarely between the eyes of his upcoming adversaries, don't expect that kind of vitriol this go-round. Sonnen has nothing but respect for Stann. He'll even go so far as to call himself a "fan."
"I've sure enjoyed watching him (Stann). He came down from 205 (lbs). He was the world champion. He came to the UFC, he ran into a speed bump or two. He changed weight classes and he's just been on fire. From my living room...he looks great. He hits hard, he moves well. He's as tough as anybody in any weight class. I'm a believer in him and I'm a fan. Like I said, we're in a big race right now. Right now, Brian Stann's ahead of me, if we were to fight today. But we don't fight today. We're in a big race to the finish line. If he can stay where he's at, he's gonna have a good night. If I can outwork him between now and then, then I'm gonna have a good night. That's just the truth. I fully expect good results on October 8th."
The race is on.
Sonnen wasn't looking to fight "The All-American." It's not a fight that excited him, but Sonnen understands it's just how the business works.
"Well, it's not something I'm looking forward to, but it is the nature of the business. We're here to compete. I've got my goals, he's got his goals...and they're the same goals. You know, neither one of us in this just for a paycheck, or to hear a crowd, or, frankly, to be on ESPN. We're on a mission to be the world champion. If our paths have to cross, that's just the way it goes. It's always about a fight. Sometimes it's about competing and doing the best that you can. That's where it ends with Brian (Stann) and I. Win or lose, we'll shake hands and continue through life as friends."
Chael's last fight was on Aug. 7, 2010, in a fight versus Silva which has now become historic. It's been a long time since Sonnen has entered into the Octagon. He knows he'll need to dust off some of the cobwebs.
"Well, I'm getting back to it. I'll tell ya, I forgot what it's like to be sore every day and tired and living life uncomfortable, due to the training regimen. I'm getting back into and I've got a little race to the finish line. The battle itself is less than two months away. It's a process.
You push as hard as you can, but, look, 'ring-rust' is a real thing. It's gonna be a step back. I won't be at my best on that night, and I'm not gonna lie to myself and make believe that I will be. It's a process. I'll have to go through and I'll deal with it when the time comes."
If Sonnen can pull off a victory against Stann on Oct. 8, he would almost certainly be in line for another shot at the middleweight title belt. As Chael told MMA LIVE's Jon Anik, he wants another chance to punch Anderson Silva in the mouth.
"I don't really know how to put it into words. I think about it every day. I thought about it for five years. It hasn't just been since our bout. I wanted a crack at him (Silva) for a long time. My feelings on him aren't a secret. While everyone else wants to sit back and take pictures and be scared of him, I want to punch him right in his mouth. That's the big difference between me and everybody else. That's the big difference and why the fight went the way it did. I'm not in awe of him and I'm not a fan of his. My friend Yushin Okami is gonna go take care of business with him in a week and I'm in full support of Yushin winning that match."
Will "the human soundbyte" get another crack at "The Spider?" Will Sonnen be able to bring his usual level of intensity into his next fight against his pal, Stann?