Chael Sonnen has been hoarding the MMA headlines as of late with his gutsy victory over Nate Marquardt, impending title shot, political ambition, and his verbal missiles against Anderson Silva, Strikeforce, amongst others.
Understandably, some of you may be tired of seeing him garner publicity with his mouth. Enough with the brazen remarks and "I tell it like it is" posturing, you say - well, here is a little something different for a change.
On MMAPlanet.jp, website run by a renowned MMA writer, Manabu Takashima, that covers American MMA for Japanese fans, Mr. Takashima delivered Sonnen's remark regarding his UFC 104 foe and recent training partner, Yushin Okami.
Following UFC 109 post-fight press conference, Sonnen rushed past a horde of inquisitive journalists and reporters to get his Frankenstein-like wound treated; however, when asked about Okami, he slowed down his gait and took time to offer complimentary remarks. If you can jog your memory back several months, Sonnen laid a verbal beatdown on Okami before their UFC 104 bout, calling him "boring and unmarketable."
Fast forward several months - note that Okami spent a month training at Team Quest in Portland with him, Matt Lindland, and others - Sonnen expressed newfound respect and friendship for Okami:
"I want to say hello to my brother, Yushin through this interview. I am saddened that he returned to Japan - it feels like I parted with a close friend. Though Yushin lost against me, he came forward and asked to train with me: Is this a Japanese thing? It is admirable that he tried to learn from an opponent who defeated him. While at Team Quest in Portland, he thoroughly handled me during training. I was lucky that I managed to defeat him in our fight. I probably won't agree to a rematch with him (laughs). The one fighter whom I never want to fight again - that is Yushin Okami."
In his appearance on Pro MMA radio (which airs live on this website on Monday evenings) before his UFC 109 fight against Nate Marquardt, Sonnen talked briefly about fighting and subsequently training with Okami. He stressed that Okami's vaunted physical strength is indeed real. Apparently, Okami's strength repeatedly thwarted his attempt to maintain top control during their fight. Also, he filled the listeners in on another interesting bit of information about Okami. When Okami weighed himself one day after a training session at Team Quest, he tipped the scale at about 200 pounds. Unless he happened to be significantly under his walk-around weight, it makes him an average-sized middleweight - a surprising statistic for a fighter known primarily for his size and strength.
Yushin Okami is scheduled to make his Octagon return at UFN 21 in March against Lucio Linhares. Now that the advantage conferred by his strength and physicality is well-established, it will be interesting to see how his training at Team Quest has helped him develop as a fighter: Will he show more versatility or will training with a stable of wrestling-based fighters like Lindland and Sonnen continue to mold him into a fighter dependent on takedown and top control?