Chael Sonnen expected to fight Vitor Belfort, not Lyoto Machida
NEW YORK – Chael Sonnen had an inkling his next fight was going to be against a former UFC light heavyweight champion.
At Tuesday’s press conference promoting Sonnen’s Bellator 222 bout with Machida at Madison Square Garden, Sonnen said that when he heard Belfort was coming out of retirement, it seemed like a natural matchup.
“I hadn’t heard anything, but I thought the winds were blowing toward Vitor,” Machida told MMA Junkie. “I just read about that in the media, and there was some chatter, and he had said something that he was coming back, and I just assumed he land was over here and we were finally going to have that match, I just assumed that. So when I hear it was Machida, I was a little surprised.”
Belfort, however, signed with Asia’s ONE Championship, meaning a fight which was never signed during the long period the two were both in the UFC isn’t going to come to pass, at least not for now.
“We were in different weight classes,” Sonnen said. “He was at 205. When he was a champion, he was at 205 pounds and now he’s moved down to 185. I was at 185 pounds and went up to 205, we just missed each other,” Sonnen said.
Instead, Sonnen will get the other big name who also bounced between 205 and 185 he never quite met in his old company in Machida. This continues a remarkable string for Sonnen as “The Dragon” marks his 12th straight opponent who has held UFC, Pride, or WEC championships.
“That can make it sound like it can get a little, but dull but to your point, my schedule has been pretty tough,” Sonnen said. “My last 11 fights were all against world champions. I beat eight of them (editor’s note: His record in this run is 5-6), but the championship was never on the line. It was one of those things, I beat all the right guys, but I didn’t beat them at the right time.”
But even at age 42, Sonnen isn’t giving up on that elusive world championship. The way “The Bad Guy” sees it, a win over Machida in this light heavyweight matchup sets him up for a fight with Bellator light heavyweight kingpin Ryan Bader.
“As far as going out and competing and winning a big fight, look, he’s the number one contender at 185 pounds right now, but I’m the number-one contender at 205 pounds right now,” Sonnen said. “I think he forgets that I was just called out by Ryan Bader, of which I accepted. But their going to put me with Machida instead. When I get done with Machida I’ll be coming at Bader full speed.”