MMA veteran Chael Sonnen may be one of the most recognizable figures in the sport today, but a world title always seemed to have eluded him. Now 42 years of age, “The American Gangster” has come to grips with the reality of his situation.
“At this point, I almost regret it and wish I would’ve kept it as a personal motivation for myself,” Sonnen told MMA Junkie during Bellator 222’s media day on Wednesday. “It is a lot of pressure.
“I will either win the championship, or I will be a failure. I believe that wholeheartedly. I was told when I was 17 years old by Matt Lindland, we were both on a wrestling quest at that time, but he told me, ‘You cannot retire unless you win a world championship; you can only quit.’ I don’t want to be a quitter.”
Sonnen is currently slated to face former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida this weekend. While “The Dragon” may have aged and slowed down himself, Sonnen still recognizes the threat in front of him.
“Looking at it going in with, say the intimidation factor, he’s right up there because he’s so weird,” Sonnen said. “I don’t have anybody in Portland that does what he does. We don’t do karate.
“In my mind we settled this debate of wrestlers vs. karate guys in 1993. That’s what I thought happened, but he stuck around, and that’s a credit to him. But somehow he’s found a way to make a sport that sucks effective.”
Bellator 222 takes place on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York City.