Sonnen relishes Silva rubber match

August, 16, 2013
8/16/13
7:43
AM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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It could be perceived that Chael Sonnen, who will be fighting for the last time at light heavyweight Saturday night in Boston, has nothing to lose.

That, however, would be the furthest thing from the truth.

Sonnen, a former No. 1 middleweight contender who returns to the division after Saturday's bout, will step inside the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 26 against Mauricio Rua as determined as ever to win. This fight is as important to Sonnen as any he's had in his pro career, and he didn't cut a single corner while preparing for it.

[+] EnlargeChael Sonnen, Anderson Silva
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsDespite a pair of losses to Anderson Silva, Chael Sonnen still insists he's the superior fighter.
He is hungry to defeat Rua, not only to end a two-fight skid, but to put himself in position to achieve his ultimate goal -- a third fight with former 185-pound champion Anderson Silva. And nothing motivates Sonnen like the mention of Silva's name.

"I want to fight Anderson Silva," Sonnen told ESPN.com. "It was never about titles, it was never about the title with Jon Jones; Jon just happened to have the title.

"I wanted to punch Jon in the face; I wanted to beat him up. I heard all his talk of who deserved it [the title shot]; I didn't even care about all that crap. If you want to fight a guy, go fight him. And if there's a belt on the line, that's just a byproduct.

"I want to fight Anderson Silva more than I want to wake up tomorrow morning. I don't care if he has got the belt or not. I don't accept the outcome of either of [our] fights; I don't acknowledge that for one day he was the better fighter than me."

With three title shots, all losses, in the past three years, Sonnen isn't focused on facing the middleweight champion at this time. At 36, the possibility of landing another title shot is fading.

I want to fight Anderson Silva more than I want to wake up tomorrow morning. I don't care if he's got the belt or not. I don't accept the outcome of either of [our] fights; I don't acknowledge that for one day he was the better fighter than me.

-- Chael Sonnen

Still, Sonnen rules nothing out. A victory over Rua would get him back in the middleweight title conversation. And without a doubt, the quick-witted, trash-talking Sonnen will take over from there.

"Anytime you're in the top 10, you're in title contention," said Sonnen, who is ranked sixth among middleweights by ESPN.com and ninth by UFC.com. "We have a new ranking system and it's very important to operate within the confines of that system.

"Anybody in the top five will go for that title. Shogun is in the top 10 [at light heavyweight] and I haven't won a light heavyweight fight in a considerable amount of time. With that said, I have had only one light heavyweight fight. But it's always important to win, especially if you can beat a top-10 guy.

"Shogun is a true legend; he's a former world champion. He's the guy [Jon] Jones beat to win the title. And he's ranked No. 8 in the world [at 205 pounds by UFC.com]. So I have a lot of reasons and motivations to win, aside from my pride and ego."

But nothing is pushing Sonnen to succeed Saturday night more than the possibility of a third fight with Silva. The fact that Silva has a rematch Dec. 28 with the man who dethroned him, Chris Weidman, only serves to heighten Sonnen's enthusiasm.

Weidman shook up the mixed martial arts world July 6 by knocking out Silva in the second round at UFC 162. The loss was Silva's first in UFC competition.

[+] EnlargeChris Weidman
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/ Getty ImagesChael Sonnen believes Chris Weidman, right, should handle Anderson Silva again when they meet in a December rematch.
The way Sonnen envisions things, Silva will no longer be in position to call the shots after his rematch with Weidman. With much less leverage, Silva-Sonnen III will look a lot more attractive to the former champion.

"I believe Chris Weidman will destroy him again," Sonnen said. "This is not a knock on Anderson Silva; he's an awesome fighter. And he's had an amazing career. But in the history of boxing, in the history of MMA, a rematch has never favored the older fighter.

"You're talking about a decade of an age difference. It's very, very unrealistic to believe that Anderson is going to win that [rematch]. This is not to say he can't do it, but it's unrealistic to see how that's going to happen.

"But it doesn't change that fact that he's a great fighter, and it doesn't change that fact that I want to fight Anderson Silva."

First, Sonnen must take care of business Saturday night in Boston. A solid performance will go a long way toward getting him a third fight with Silva, but a win certainly increases the probability. And if Weidman does what Sonnen expects him to do at UFC 168 in Las Vegas, Silva might be receptive to a third go-round.

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