LOS ANGELES — Most fighters would be concerned with their fight and their fight alone, and let the other chips fall where they may. But not Chael Sonnen. “The American Gangster” has always had keen interest in the business side of mixed martial arts. And next month, there will be a very intriguing battle — not between two athletes, but between the two top promotions.
UFC 220 and Bellator 192 are both slated for Jan. 20. At UFC 220 in Boston, Stipe Miocic will defend his heavyweight title against Francis Ngannou and Daniel Cormier puts the light heavyweight belt on the line against Volkan Oezdemir.
Bellator will counter with a good 1-2 punch of its own in Los Angeles: Douglas Lima vs. Rory MacDonald for the welterweight title and Sonnen taking on Quinton Jackson in a Bellator heavyweight tournament first-round matchup.
Sonnen, 40, is taking the UFC vs. Bellator competition as seriously as he’s taking his inclusion in the high-profile tourney.
“I’m competitive,” Sonnen said at a Bellator media lunch Wednesday. “I want to beat those guys. My ego is directly related to those numbers. I check those numbers, every time. Every interview I do, every podcast I do. I check them. It’s competition. They’re gonna have their show and we’re gonna have our show. They’re gonna fight for our viewers and we’re gonna fight for ours. And that’s it. Live audience and the gate and all the way down, to who sells the most T-shirts at the end of the night.”
UFC 220 will be on pay-per-view and Bellator 192 is on cable’s The Paramount Network (formerly Spike TV), so there will be major differences in distribution and viewership in that regard. But Sonnen noted correctly that the UFC’s prelims will be on cable alongside Bellator 192. A few days later, everyone will be able to see those ratings numbers and how the two promotions stacked up.
“We’ll see those things,” Sonnen said. “And I don’t wish against [the UFC]. I hope they have a great night, but it’s still competition. Only one of us is gonna have a higher number. One of us is gonna have a bigger gate, one of us is gonna have more people in attendance. So good for them. But we’re playing too.”
Sonnen (30-15-1) spent seven years with the UFC, fighting twice for the middleweight title and once for the light heavyweight belt. He was a UFC on FOX broadcaster for years as well. The Oregon native doesn’t have any hard feelings for the people in Las Vegas, but he’ll be rooting for his new team, not his old one. Sonnen has been with Bellator since January 2017, going 1-1 with a win over Wanderlei Silva and a loss to Tito Ortiz.
“Rampage” Jackson has a long history with the UFC himself, coming and going from the promotion multiple times over the last four years. The first time he left the UFC, in 2014, Jackson said he wanted Bellator to top his old digs. He said he offered to fight on Spike cards that went up against UFC PPV shows.
“I was in that mainframe back then, but I kind of got the short end of the stick regardless because of [former Bellator promoter] Bjorn [Rebney], we all know what kind of person he is,” Jackson said.
Now? “Rampage” isn’t too concerned with how Bellator 192 will stack up with UFC 220.
“I’m focusing on winning this tournament,” Jackson said. “I can’t focus on everything. … I can’t focus on what the UFC has going on. I don't give a f*ck.”