Rashad Evans? Wanderlei Silva? Vitor Belfort? Chael Sonnen wants it all

Esther Lin

LOS ANGELES -- Never let it be said that Chael Sonnen doesn't know who butters his bread.

West Linn, Oregon's most famous resident seems to have a hand in everything these days. He's co-main eventing one of the biggest fight cards of the year on Saturday at UFC 167. He's a FOX studio commentator. He'll head down to Brazil early next year to coach the next season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.

And as he gets set for his light heavyweight fight with Rashad Evans on Saturday in Las Vegas, Sonnen is in the mood to praise the man who signs his paychecks.

"He is the master," Sonnen said of UFC president Dana White. "He works very hard, and he does a lot of things nobody else does. You can't go to school to learn what Dana does. You can't read a book, you can't major in this. You have to try it and fail, or try it and succeed to know what works. A lot of guys have tried, but they haven't wanted to work as hard, 18 or 19 hours a day. He is the best, and he is the best in a lot of areas."

Clearly, Sonnen's ability to stay on his boss' good side is well-honed. But he's also proven he isn't just bluster. Sonnen can't find it within himself to gin up a controversy to hype Saturday's fight with Evans, his fellow FOX analyst.

"If there was one guy I would have not wanted, it was Rashad," Sonnen said. "We work together, we talk a lot, it's kind of awkward. I wanted to be on the card. It's a means to an end. ... I don't know what to do with the guy, but I seldom do. I never walk into a fight confident. If I didn't I'd be a bully. I go into fights with guys I don't know I can beat. That's the point of it."

If you read between the lines, it sounds like Sonnen played his cards right to maximize his paycheck, being paired with welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre on the UFC's 20th anniversary show.

"I wanted to be part of the 20th anniversary card, it was the biggest show in UFC history," Sonnen said. "To be on a huge show means something to me. I really wanted to be on a card St-Pierre was on.

"The biggest PPV of the year is Georges vs. Nick Diaz," Sonnen continued. "You guys think you know, but you don't. I'll tell you right now, they are No. 1. No. 2 was Jones and I, and now we're teaming up. Georges and I are teaming up. It's a huge night and we will set the record."

While most fighters really do follow the cliche about taking things one fight at a time, Sonnen's plans into 2014 are already set. In a quest to chase down his most elusive adversary, Wanderlei Silva, he'll coach opposite Silva on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.

At this point, all Sonnen knows is he is bound for Brazil.

"It's in January," he said. "That's literally all I know right now. I asked some basic questions, for example, ‘January what?' and all the answers are ‘I don't know yet.'" It's gotta be like Vegas, there's gotta be a training center there. I've heard Rio, I've heard Sao Paulo ... I've heard it's going to be America vs. Brazil, and I've heard it wasn't true. I have no information."

He has, however, softened his tone on the former longtime PRIDE champion.

"I think Wanderlei is one of those guys where, if he says he'll do something, he'll do it," Sonnen said. "I think Wanderlei has a lot of courage and a lot of heart. I think he's an honest guy. I don't think he's a liar like the Nogueiras or Vitor [Belfort]. I think when he signs a contract, he means it. So I think the fight is likely going to happen. But he's not in there yet."

It wouldn't be a Chael Sonnen meet-and-greet without a speed round on some of the latest topics in the sports and in the news. So let's get to it:

On Vitor Belfort: I couldn't imagine not fighting Vitor. I couldn't imagine ending my career and not fighting Vitor or Wanderlei. And I've felt that for a considerable amount of time. He's doing a good job. I'd like to see him as a fan fight Lyoto Machida. He and I will eventually cross paths. I just don't like him, I want to fight. I'm not into the whole schtick. I'm not into bringing Jesus into the Octagon and acting like Jesus is into watching one man knock another to sleep."

On the recent Miami Dolphins controversy: "I think [Jonathan] Martin was responsible and mature in the way he handled it. There was a problem, he turned the other cheek and walked away. We keep hearing horror stories in this decade about someone being bullied and doing unspeakable things. This guy got up and walked away. Good for him."

On Conor McGregor: I'm in. I'm on board. I think he's tenacious and aggressive and has an awkward striking ability. He's fun to listen to. He's willing to fight. He's got a long ways to go. ... The risk you run, if you take his approach, with great risk comes great rewards. He's in such a tough weight class, there's 10 guys in that weight class who are better than the best guy in my weight class.

On his refusal to use the word "douchebag:" "I don't get my insults from the women's medicine cabinet. I've never used that term, nor will I."

And there you have it. Sonenn's mouth will keep him in the business long after he's done fighting. But that time isn't coming soon. Not when he's submitting guys like Mauricio Rua, and not when he's got Evans and Silva on his agenda.

Still, though, he's 36. How much longer can he do this?

"I've got a new contract," Sonnen said. "I'll fulfill my contract. I don't put a lot of thought into it. I'm getting to the age where I'm going to be asked that question a lot. I need to come up with a better answer. I look up to guys who can extend their career. Bernard Hopkins, Randy Couture, even Floyd Mayweather, we're the same age, for him to do what he does on such a dominant level in a young man's sport is very admirable."

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