Bonnar: The defining moment of my life
October, 10, 2012
By Brett Okamoto
AP Photo/Jeff ChiuSurprise! Stephan Bonnar was officially retired when he got the call from UFC to fight Anderson Silva.
LAS VEGAS -- Stephan Bonnar will never be remembered as the greatest fighter of all time. His upcoming opponent at UFC 153, Anderson Silva, might.
But that won’t matter when Bonnar enters the cage in Brazil on Oct. 13. He only needs to be better than Silva for one night.
The 35-year-old Bonnar says it’s hard not to notice the stars aligning for this fight. He was effectively retired from mixed martial arts before getting the call to fight Silva -- an opportunity so unexpected he refused to believe it at first.
He is the heaviest underdog ever in a UFC main event and there’s something about meeting the best fighter in the world in his own backyard that is so movie script.
Bonnar just so happened to be helping another fighter train when he got the call, which forced him to get in shape, and he trains regularly at a Muay Thai facility in Las Vegas with a sparring partner, Chidi Njokuani, who is capable of mimicking Silva.
Want to keep going? Bonnar and his wife, Andrea, are expecting their first child later this month.
All of that might sound like fate to some. Nick Blomgren, Bonnar’s head coach, has a much simpler take on his guy’s chances to pull off the miracle.
“Bonnar is a man, not a punk,” Blomgren told ESPN.com. “He’s going to go out there, put on his best effort and show them this is what he’s made of. He might not be that talented guy who can move like Silva, but he works hard in the gym.
“You might beat the guy up real bad in the first round, but if he’s still in your face in the third round, that kind of disheartens you.”
Bonnar (15-7) recently sat down to give his thoughts on coming out of retirement and taking on Silva with just three weeks to prepare.
What does this opportunity mean to you at this point in your career?
Very rarely does a great opportunity come along, even if it is a long-shot opportunity. That’s the story of my life, though. I don’t have the best luck; I’m kind of the bad-luck kid. But every once in awhile a great opportunity comes along and I take advantage of it. I think I did that with Season 1 [of “The Ultimate Fighter.”]
Do you see this fight with Silva as the defining moment of your career?
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty ImagesStephen Bonnar doesn't mind being the underdog when he is inside the Octagon.
It’s the defining moment of my whole life. Everything I’ve gone through, all the martial arts training I’ve done, MMA fights, boxing matches, wrestling, grappling -- this is a culmination of it all. It’s all meant to be. It’s perfect. It feels like the stars are aligning just like it did on that magical night for the UFC when I fought Forrest [Griffin].
When the UFC didn’t give you the big names you were looking for or the TUF coaching job against Forrest Griffin, was it ever hard not to be bitter?
It’s nothing to be bitter about. What [Dana White] thinks a fighter should be after and what I think are different. He’s all about the guys who are hungry and chasing the title. Honestly, I’ve never really cared about the title. I just fought because it was a fun challenge to get in there and give it your all. I hear Chael [Sonnen] say, "If I never win a title my career is a failure," and I never felt like that. He wants guys coaching TUF who want the title. I guess I should have lied to him and said I was, but I was just being honest. His theory is, if you’re not chasing the title you should hang it up and retire. All right, if you’re not going to give me the TUF coaching gig and I’m not hungry for the title, maybe I will just hang it up.
Is it hard at all to remain confident when oddsmakers have you at 13-1?
I wish I were 100-1. I eat that up. It feels good to me. I retweet the ones who tell me, “You’re gonna get killed, you don’t stand a chance, you’re garbage Bonnar.” Yeah, retweet! That’s all the more sweeter when I go out there and do what I’m going to do.
Vitor Belfort nearly pulled off a submission against Jon Jones as a heavy underdog in the last UFC pay-per-view. Did that give you any extra spark?
It just goes to show you only need a little opening, a little window. That’s all you need in MMA. That’s why I love the sport. If one team [in another sport] is down 50 points in the fourth quarter, everyone walks out of the stadium. In fighting, you always have a chance until the final bell rings. Vitor showed that. He almost pulled off a pretty big upset. Matt Serra gave me a call after he heard about the fight and said, "It doesn’t suck shocking the world."