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Chael Sonnen addresses ‘embarrassing’ end to Tito Ortiz fight, SUG 3 pullout

Bellator 170 photos
Chael Sonnen fell by first-round submission to Tito Ortiz last week.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Chael Sonnen was just as disappointed as his supporters on Saturday with the way his Bellator 170 main event against Tito Ortiz played out.

Sonnen tapped out from an early rear-naked choke at the hands of Ortiz, ending his comeback from a three-year absence at Bellator 170 with an anticlimactic flourish. And while some critics online have questioned whether the submission that forced the tapout was fully locked in, Sonnen soundly dismissed that talk on Thursday.

“It was a choke. It was an oxygen issue, not a pain issue,” Sonnen said on The Luke Thomas Show. “And somebody had asked me that … after the fight, and I had no idea what she was talking about. ‘Didn’t you see it? I got put in a rear-naked choke.’ And then I got home and people were saying that it didn’t look like it was on. I don’t even know how to respond to that.

“All I can tell you is I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t respect it went on. I thought we were going to get into scramble and I was going to come on top, and I was stuck. It’s really hard to give up your back, ever. You give up your back in the first round before you have that sweat going, man, it’s just a tough spot. And it’s embarrassing, it’s all those different things. But to answer your question head-on, yeah, it was a choke, it was not a crank.”

While the setback did not mark the first time that Sonnen has been felled by a submission, there are several factors that may have played against Sonnen’s chances at Bellator 170.

“The American Gangster” acknowledged that his three-year layoff from competition was a more difficult hurdle to overcome than he initially expected. It also is no secret that Sonnen has historically performed far better at middleweight than at light heavyweight, particularly against a big 205-pounder like Ortiz.

Ultimately, at 39 years old, it may also just be a reality that Sonnen is no longer the same athlete he was in his younger days, and his past history with PED abuse certainly does not help those matters.

But regardless, Sonnen was resolute in saying the Ortiz fight was on the level.

“I can tell you, if you’re ever in a contest and somebody thinks that you threw it, like some of my fans in this case, like ‘he wasn’t trying’ — no, the hard reality is I got put in a choke,” Sonnen said. “I was trying and he squeezed the choke better than I defended it, and as much as I appreciate you guys trying to give me an excuse, man, I’m a guy who hates them.

“It’s fun to be a good winner, it’s hard to be a good loser, but it’s the process. It’s protocol and procedure, and if you get beat, you’ve got to tap and surrender, man. You’ve got to own it forever. You can’t go back and say, ‘well, I didn’t try.’ So as much as I appreciate supporters offering an excuse for me, there’s not an excuse, man. I got put in a choke and I had to tap.”

In addition, Sonnen also explained the reason behind his recent pullout at Submission Underground 3.

Sonnen, the owner and promoter of SUG, was slated to face jiu-jitsu ace Garry Tonon this Sunday in a grappling match at SUG 3 following the short-notice withdrawal of Hector Lombard. However, after the announcement of his participation, Sonnen said that Bellator politely asked him to withdraw from the event due to the condensed timetable and logistics.

“That’s contractual,” Sonnen said. “You have to go in and get permission, and that’s the same with the UFC. That is in the contract, and Bellator just didn’t have time. They were like, ‘hey, listen, we don’t think we’ve got a commission issue here, but we could. All we have to do is simply contact them and find out that we don’t, you didn’t give us any time.’ They’re like, ‘you stepped in on Tuesday, that gives us four working days. We’re just not positive we can get this done.’

“They were as polite and professional as can be. And I got it, I did spring this onto them. It was supposed to be Hector versus Garry. Hector pulled out, he ended up taking a fight with Johny Hendricks. It was just tough. Garry’s a scary guy, it’s hard to get anybody to agree (to face him), particularly on short notice, particularly by the time you give them a plane ticket, fly them out to Oregon. There’s a lot of moving parts, so it was easy for me to just go, alright, I’m in. But Bellator was great about it, and they said, ‘hey, you didn’t quite give us enough time.’”

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