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Word Warrior: Chael Sonnen Talks About UFC, Anderson Silva, and His New Book

Chael Sonnen is one of the top middleweight fighters in the world. Chael Sonnen is one of the top middleweight fighters in the world.

Chael Sonnen is one of the most notorious figures in sports. He’s as well known for his candid and colorful interviews as he is for throwing down inside the cage. He’s also a former NCAA All-American wrestler, real estate agent, Republican senatorial candidate, and federal felon (receiving two-years probation after pleading guilty to money-laundering last year).

Over the past couple of years, Sonnen’s profile has skyrocketed thanks to his crushing victories over several of the UFC’s top middleweights and for coming within a hair’s breadth of defeating the pound-for-pound greatest mixed martial artist in the world, UFC world middleweight champion Anderson Silva. In fact, over the past seven years, no other fighter has even looked like he’s in the same league as Silva. Sonnen dominated the Brazilian for four rounds before getting trapped in a triangle choke and tapping out in the fifth and final round at UFC 117.

This is your V.I.P. pass to enlightenment. This is the way the world ought to be through the eyes of a genius – me.

That electrifying fight as well as Sonnen’s inflammatory comments about the champ and Silva’s home country of Brazil (both pre- and post-fight ) have set the stage for a rematch at the biggest MMA event of all time – UFC 147 on June 23, which UFC president Dana White expects will draw 80,000 fans to Estádio Olímpico João Havelange in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In addition to training for the fight, Sonnen is capitalizing on the massive buzz surrounding the record-breaking event to promote his new book, The Voice of Reason: A V.I.P. Pass to Enlightenment, which hit shelves May 15. We caught up with the #1 contender to talk about both his literary and martial arts aspirations. As you’d expect, Sonnen delivered the goods in one of the most memorable Rosebud Magazine interviews ever.

Rosebud: How did the idea of writing a book come about?

Chael Sonnen: I’ve been writing the book for probably about ten years. I just finally had time to complete it and get it on the shelf.

RB: What should readers expect? From what I’ve read, it doesn’t sound like an autobiography.

CS: No, it’s definitely not an autobiography; this is an informative book. Basically I can get you to understand everything you need to know about government and politics if I can get you to understand UFC. And when you can see how they’re intertwined, especially throughout regulation, the highs and the lows from the states that got it and understood and welcomed it to the few hold outs that continue to not. I can get you to understand everything you need to know about your government through the octagon.

RB: In the book, you take aim at vegans, liberals, and even fighters by comparing them to fashion models.

CS: Absolutely. Nobody’s safe. This book will change your life. This is your V.I.P. pass to enlightenment. This is the way the world ought to be through the eyes of a genius – me.

RB: And what qualifies you as a genius?

CS: My poetic license.

RB: So what’s your beef with liberals?

CS: Next question.

They can throw their drinks, they can spill their beer, they can toss their nachos. If anyone of them touches me, I will stomp him.

RB: Okay. You’re one of the great personalities in MMA. Is it important for fighters to be charismatic, or is it enough to just get the job done in the octagon?

CS: You know, I don’t know if I would agree on either of those points. My whole thing is just honesty. I get very irritated as a fan and a competitor when fighters continually lie, when you ask a fighter a question and it’s his attempt to be respectful but it’s nothing short of dishonest. There’s no respect in bowing to a guy’s face and putting a knife in his back when he turns around. I will tell you to your face that when you turn your back, I’m going to put a knife in it, and then I will.

RB: So do you think that charismatic component is important or not? It definitely draws eyes to you specifically.

CS: I don’t know anything about that stuff. My job is to show up with a mouthpiece and short pants, and fight when the guy with dreadlocks (UFC referee, Herb Deaned.) gets out of my way.

RB: People see the Anderson Silva rematch as more than just the champ versus the #1 contender. But you’re saying that from your perspective the personality that’s driving attention to the fight is not your concern.

CS: I don’t even know what any of that means. I get asked about it all the time. My job isn’t to sell fights. I don’t hype fights and I don’t talk trash. I get a phone call from someone like you and I answer the questions that are asked of me.

RB: You’ll be playing the villain in front of the largest and probably most hostile crowd in MMA history. How do you feel about being the bad guy? (This interview took place before Sonnen’s fight was postponed and moved to Vegas – ed.)

CS: Well, first off, I’ve never asked a crowd for approval and I’m not going to start now. They can do anything they want. They (Brazilian fans) can have all their little chants and behave like fools like they always do. I encourage it. They can throw their drinks, they can spill their beer, they can toss their nachos. If anyone of them touches me, I will stomp him.

RB: Does that mean you don’t have any concerns about your safety while you’re in Brazil?

CS: Next question.

RB: In a recent interview, I was surprised to hear you say that you’ve never been out struck by anyone, including Anderson Silva, who is widely considered the greatest striker in the history of mixed martial arts. But then I realized that it’s true, especially when you look back at that fight. Is Silva’s striking overrated or is yours underrated?

CS: There’s no question - I’ve never been out-struck in a fight; I’ve never been out-grappled in a fight. If you took all my fights and combined them, with a stopwatch you wouldn’t have one collective minute that I’ve ever lost. I’m the most dominant fighter in the history of this sport. There’s nobody even remotely close. As far as Anderson Silva’s striking, I don’t even care about Anderson. His skills are his skills. He goes out and he puts his hands down in the middle of a fistfight. That’s an amateur move. He’s an amateur fighter at best.

RB: You don’t drink, smoke, or do recreational drugs. Is that a lifelong practice?

CS: Yes. I’ve never had a drop.

RB: How did you arrive at the decision that that was the right lifestyle for you?

CS: When I was 12 years old, my mom took me to school one day. We stopped for donuts and hot chocolate. And somewhere in that conversation, she asked me not to drink. I told her I wouldn’t. She told me that it was easy to say now but in high school and college it would be hard. And I said, “Mom, I’m telling you now I will not drink,” and I didn’t.

RB: And that’s what still motivates you even to this day as an adult?

CS: I gave her my word.

RB: You reacted sarcastically over Twitter to the news that Alistair Overeem failed a drug test-

CS: What? What? What? Overeem failed a drug test? I am stunned! You’ve got to be kidding me, I mean, what’s next – you’re going to tell me that a UFC ring card girl got naked? That blows my mind! I’m literally in disbelief right now.

I am a gangster from the mean streets of West Linn, Oregon. Okay? I’ve been down that way. You don’t know what it’s like to be me.

RB: (trying to stop laughing) I wanted to ask you about the role of steroids in MMA. Do you think it’s a problem or is it under control?

CS: Well, I wouldn’t have any idea, but neither would you. It’s always fun when people say they think there’s a problem. I mean it’s simple math. Guys are tested every time. How many guys have failed compared to how many guys have passed? It’s like a guy’s batting average – midway through his career, you don’t get to give me your opinion on whether or not he’s a good batter. We just look at his RBI. It’s simple numbers, and the numbers don’t lie.

People like to throw out the term “steroids” halfheartedly, like you just did, without even knowing what it means or defining what medications fall into that category. Guys are passing constantly. Of course, that never makes the news. You never get any attention for the rules you follow; you just get attention for the rules you break.

RB: So maybe it’s the outsiders or the media attention that makes more of it than it ought to be?

CS: I really don’t care. I have no interest in smothering the flame. If they find that to be the hot topic, go ahead. It’s just like these same people that talk about the violence and in-humanitarian activities that go on in the cage. If you want to talk about it, go ahead, but I’m not going to give you an audience, and I’m not going to play along and attempt to educate you. If that’s where you’ve reached your conclusion, it’s fine with me.

RB: I wanted to get your opinion as a wrestler; why do you think that, in general, wrestlers seem to make the transition to MMA better than other-

CS: Let me just cut you off. Did Overeem really fail a steroid test? You’ve got to be kidding me! There are guys walking around on the streets all over the place that look like him! I mean, he looks perfectly normal to me. I really am blown away by this news.

RB: Yeah, well, I hate to be the one to break it to you.

CS: Wow. Talk about out of left field. Wow.

RB: Okay, moving on. There are growing concerns about brain injuries in sport. Do you ever worry about your long term health because of the sport you’ve chosen to do?

CS: No. You know, I try not to get into that stuff. You’ve got to understand, once you start worrying, what do you do? Do you never leave your house? It’s like, I was in Chicago for my last fight, and this reporter asked me about going to Brazil and if I’m worried about my safety. And I’m going, “Hey guy, you might want to check your own local paper. Chicago is not exactly a haven of civility.” I’m not safe on the streets of Chicago, and you ask me about in the ring – how far do I take this? Do I take it to the food I put in my mouth? Do I worry if it’s processed or not? Do I take it to crossing the street? I’m not going to live my life in fear. A lot of people like to. Good for them. It’s their life. If you want to be a chicken, go ahead. There’s plenty of them out there.

RB: All right, this has been a great interview, a great experience for me to talk to you Chael, thank-

CS: Whoa, whoa, whoa. This interview is not over.

RB: Okay.

CS: This interview is just warming up. I’m glad that we got through the callisthenic phase. Now we’re going to get to me, what I want to talk about. You’re asking me if I’m worried about my safety. I am a gangster from the mean streets of West Linn, Oregon. Okay? I’ve been down that way. You don’t know what it’s like to be me. You don’t know what it’s like to be young and with money and a fancy car. I get pulled over all the time - they think I’m a rapper. They just assume. They make assumptions. You have no idea of the plight, in America, of the blue-eyed German male. Those people in Rio might want to think twice before they come throwing their threats my way. Now! This interview is over.

RB: Thank you very much. It’s been a-

CS: (sound of hanging up the phone)

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Hear excerpts from this interview with UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen right here.
Last modified on Monday, 25 June 2012 18:40

Happy is a regular contributor to RosebudMag.com and has written for various other publications, including Black Belt, Inside Hockey, and FoxSports.com. He transitioned to life as a writer following a decade-long career as a touring musician. He lives with his son in Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/hkreter

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