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Fighting a former champion is Chael Sonnen's motivation for Shogun Rua fight

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Esther Lin

BOSTON -- Chael Sonnen finds himself back fighting in a non-title bout when he meets Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in the main event of Saturday's UFC Fight Night at TD Garden.

But that doesn't mean the brash Oregonian won't have a title-related goal in mind when he steps into the Octagon with the former UFC light heavyweight champion.

"I haven't reached my goals. Any of them, for that matter," Sonnen bluntly stated at Wednesday's open workouts. "I'm chasing the same things I always was. This is a top contender's fight, we're both ranked in the top 10. It's a hard fight, he's a former world champion and I've never beat a former UFC champion, so it's a big deal to me, I can tell you that much."

That's the type of mental adjustment required for a veteran competitor like Sonnen, who went 0-3 in twice challenging Anderson Silva for the middleweight title and then falling short against light heavyweight champ Jon Jones at UFC 159. After losing to Jones, Sonnen hinted that if he wasn't challenging for a title, the sport wasn't worth pursuing.

Sonnen acknowledged his change of heart since then."I said that when I fought for the championship," Sonnen said. "But a lot of fighters, maybe even all, I can't think of a fighter this doesn't pertain to except Lennox Lewis, always thinks they can win the championship. I think Evander [Holyfield] still is trying to win the championship again. That's just a reality of the sport. i'm still training at a high level and competing at a high level and that's it, really. This is very important to me."

The 27-13-1 Sonnen will go back to middleweight after Saturday night's fight. He's willing to admit that even with a victory over "Shogun," he's not exactly in position to cut the line for a title shot again.

He did, however, offer his opinions on potential middleweight opponents, among them Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva.

"Vitor's so good," Sonnen said. "He's so scary, but he's the only one who doesn't know that. He's a chicken. But Ii's his career, he's done a good job."

As for Wanderlei Silva, Sonnen claims this one's personal.

"One day, I'm minding my own business, I'm in a van," Sonnen said. "Wanderlei pulls out a camera. He tells me off in the van. And I'm fine with that. But there's two big problems. First, it's his camera. Second, he gets in with a cane. He's on a cane. In no walk of society would I get off, for a guy on a cane with his own camera to double cross me, then subtitle it. So he speaks in this mumbled language I can't understand and then double cross me, that pissed me off."

While Saturday's opponent shares Belfort and Silva's Brazilian heritage, Sonnen hasn't dogged Rua the way he has others.

"He's as tough as they come," Sonnen said. "He hangs in there whether he's hurting or whatever, and he's fought everybody. It's rare when they say something like that. I'm checking them off the list, the guys who aren't afraid to fight anybody, but yeah, he's a tough guy."