Could the "American Gangster," Chael Sonnen, return to the cage for a comeback fight? It's an idea that would certainly draw major interest, and it's one that's already been floated by Mike Roberts -- the man who makes up half of Sonnen's management team -- but Sonnen shut down any talk of lacing up his gloves for one last adventure during a Monday appearance on The MMA Hour.
"Yeah, [Roberts] is wrong about that," Sonnen said. "He's told me that before, too. He's told me, ‘I don't think you're done. I think that there's more.' So, that is his opinion. He wasn't just talking out of school on that one. But I am not going to fight again, if that's what you're asking. I am done fighting."
An ex-UFC star who celebrated his 38th birthday in April, Sonnen is currently serving the second year of the two-year suspension the Nevada Athletic Commission handed down following a pair of failed drug tests in the lead-up to Sonnen's ill-fated 2013 fight against Wanderlei Silva. Sonnen retired in the wake of the tests, which discovered a handful of banned substances in his system.
Few sports abide by the ‘out of sight, out of mind' principle quite like professional fighting, though. So while Las Vegas readies itself for UFC 189 and the oncoming invasion of Irish green, it's easy to forget that the center of the MMA world not long ago revolved around the bad boy from West Linn who almost dethroned the greatest middleweight of all-time.
It was nearly three years ago to this day when Sonnen challenged then-UFC champion Anderson Silva in one of the most anticipated rematches in MMA history at UFC 148. Sonnen fell short that night, losing via second-round TKO after dominating the opening round, but in many ways the event was the culmination of an unprecedented rise from journeyman to genuine pay-per-view star that few observers saw coming.
Sonnen admitted now he still gets that itch to compete, though when he looks back over his body of work, he sees a whirlwind similar to the one Conor McGregor is currently experiencing. That type of life is a chaotic one, to say the least. So while he's proud of the heights he was able to achieve in such a short amount of time, he's also happy to leave it at that.
"Pretty much the only joy I had in the sport is from memories," Sonnen said. "At the time that you're in the sport, it's very hard to enjoy it because the life that you're leading is a lot like the one that Conor (McGregor) is leading right now, where it's no sleep, it's no rest, it's no fun. It's go, go, go -- people pulling at you in every direction with the stress of the big match coming up, with the weigh-in, with taking care of the competition itself.
"So it was never very fun. There was never a point where you could sit back and smell the roses, if you will. It was always go, go, go, go. So yeah, I think I do look back a little bit and the memories are fonder for me than the experience itself was."
Even despite his indiscretions, Sonnen's career remains something to marvel at. He fought for a UFC title three times across two weight classes, would've claimed the WEC middleweight belt had Paulo Filho not failed to make weight, and along the way laid out a blueprint of self-promotion that's become required reading for any up-and-coming UFC prospect hoping to translate their mic time into box office dollars.
And through it all, two aspects of Sonnen's journey stuck with him the most.
"I don't think I've ever had a better experience in the sport than coaching The Ultimate Fighter," he said. "I got to do it twice, but I got to really build relationships there that will last forever. I stay in contact with every one of those guys, contact with the coaches, contact with the opposing athletes and coaches. So those were definitely the highest points that I ever had, was coaching The Ultimate Fighter and being given that opportunity.
"As far as legacy goes, there was a time in my career where I would get asked that and I'd get red hot. There was a time in my career where everything pissed me off. Any question you asked me was going to set me off one way or another, but that one specifically, because I never got it. I had to deal with these other guys sitting around talking about their goddamn legacies, like anyone should give a damn about them. I graduated high school. I loved high school. I donate to my old high school. I coach at my (old high school). I'd do anything for my old high school. But the last thing I'm going to do is wear a goddamn letterman's jacket around when I'm out of high school. And there's guys who do it.
"These guys who cling to it and want to be remembered for something they did in a kid's world, in a kid's sport, that's a weird thing for me. I never wanted to get trapped in that. I thought, I'm going to be a fighter for a very limited amount of time and then I'm going to have to move on and do real things in life. Be a father, be a husband, be a member of the community, and do these things that really matter. Not some sport that I go do in a steel cage three times a year. And I was very defiant that I do not want to hear about somebody else's alleged legacy, because I compare it to the guy out of high school, riding around in his Trans-Am, with his old letterman's jacket on. I don't want to be one of those guys.
"When time passes and you come through it though, you do have things that you were proud of," Sonnen continued. "And I was very proud of the fact that I would fight anybody at any time. Period. And I would never come in with an excuse. If I had a broken rib, you damn sure would never know about it. If one of my teammates came out and did an interview about how he broke my rib, he's no longer my teammate. It's a simple as that. I would never discredit the sport or my opponent by reading my injury list before or after the fight. I've always thought it's a very underhanded thing to do and it's a very cowardly thing to do, to come out and say I'm hurt, particularly if you win a fight.
"Your message is very clear. You're saying, I beat you, and had I been healthy, I would've beaten you even easier. So as far as legacy goes, the one thing that I'm proud of was that I would always compete. I was looking to compete. I was never a bully, I would take on everybody at anytime. Whether that was the No. 1 guy in the world or whether that was the No. 100 guy in the world, it didn't make any bit of difference. If somebody wanted to fight, I would show up and fight."