From a fighting point of view, Chael Sonnen said he doesn’t really care if he’s the last fight on the card or somewhere on the prelims. But “The American Gangster” told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that he does have a different feeling now that he’s one of the headliners for Bellator 192 on Saturday.
Sonnen only found out last Friday that he and Quinton Jackson would go on last at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., after Bellator president Scott Coker first told The Sporting News. MMA Fighting was able to confirm the news as fact minutes later.
Now that he knows, Sonnen admits that things have changed, at least slightly.
“Maybe a little bit,” Sonnen said. “Only in this regard — my ego is more attached to it. Before, it was put on those guys, so my ego is directly related to the number of people in that arena that night. The first thing I do on Monday morning when I wake up is check the ratings. So, yeah I think I do feel a little bit differently. I like it.”
It was presumed by many — Sonnen included — that the welterweight title fight between champion Douglas Lima and challenger Rory MacDonald would be the headliner for the big card. Sonnen said Bellator never told him directly either way, but he assumed Lima vs. MacDonald was last because of the prominence of their photos on the poster.
“I don’t know what the reason is behind doing it,” Sonnen said. “I don’t think you get more viewers. It’s the same guys fighting, doing the same thing just 15 minutes apart. So I don’t know. Maybe I can learn something through this.”
Coker said Monday on The MMA Hour that it was a decision made by parent company Viacom. The card will air on the newly re-branded Paramount Network.
“If TV says what they want, that’s what they get,” said Coker, who added that he believes it’s the right decision.
The actual order of bouts is of little importance to Sonnen, he said. He still has to beat Jackson to advance in the Bellator World Heavyweight Grand Prix, the winner of which will become Bellator heavyweight champion. The winner between Sonnen and Jackson on Saturday will face the winner of a bout between Fedor Emelianenko and Frank Mir.
“Just as a fighter, that’s not something that ever factors in, whether you go first or last or you walk out first or you walk out second,” Sonnen said. “It’s not something that ever factors in or you feel slighted about. I don’t think that anybody would care. The job is the same. I don’t even know what the reason is for why they did it.”
Sonnen and “Rampage” are the proven draws on the card. They each have headlined multiple UFC pay-per-view events and helped that the promotion reach 1 million buys on pay-per-view on more than one occasion. Lima and MacDonald are more relevant in their respective world divisions right now, though. And the bout is a five-rounder for a Bellator title. So the decision to switch things up has drawn criticism.
“I didn’t get it,” Sonnen said. “Listen, I fight whenever my music hits those speakers, that’s when I leave that locker room. So I don’t know that one had anything to do with the other, but I hear your point on that. Traditionally, a title fight does go last. Let’s see what happens moving forward.”