Chael Sonnen used to train with the likes of Randy Couture. Back in the old Team Quest days, Sonnen said Couture used to talk to him about how different it was fighting the huge men of the heavyweight division.
Sonnen told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that he didn’t quite understand those things when Couture told him years ago. But he does now after fighting a 253-pound Quinton Jackson on Saturday night in the first round of the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix tournament in the main event of Bellator 192.
“It was unknown waters for me,” Sonnen said. “I was just out there trying.”
Sonnen got his hand raised, though. He beat “Rampage” by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) and acclimated himself fairly well, especially as the fight went on. A lot of his usual techniques did not work, though, Sonnen acknowledged. And he’ll need to make some tweaks as he moves forward in this tourney, which will crown a new Bellator heavyweight champion.
“I learned a lot of stuff in that fight as far as progressing through this tournament,” Sonnen said. “Particularly, the division. The heavyweights. I’ve gotta change some stuff. I need different angles. I blasted him a couple times with like a double leg tackle and he just stood there. And I mean, nothing happened at all. And it was as hard as I could penetrate. But when I found some angles, I was able to get him down. It was just totally different.”
Sonnen, 40, will now face the winner of an April bout between Fedor Emelianenko and Frank Mir. Once again, he will be giving up quite a bit in size no matter the winner. Sonnen, a career middleweight, weighed in Friday at 222 pounds. Mir, especially, is a large heavyweight who can sometimes hover around the division’s limit of 265 pounds.
“The Bad Guy” said he didn’t really care who wins between Mir and Emelianenko, but the size difference is something he’ll be thinking about. Sonnen said he expects to compete in the semifinals of the tournament sometime toward late summer or early fall, but nothing has been set in stone just yet.
In the meantime, Sonnen will be back in the broadcast position as a color commentator for Bellator. But he’ll also be working on ways to offset the weight deficiency he’ll have throughout the bracket. Sonnen said he was feeling a different kind of soreness after the fight against “Rampage.”
“I am in so much pain,” Sonnen said. “The soreness you feel after a fight or after a good battle, it’s the best feeling in the world. You might sit and complain about it, but you feel so accomplished. This is different, man. I am in pain. For 15 minutes, I don’t know if he ever touched my face. He touched my body non-stop. My chest hurts, my body hurts.
Just sitting through the post-fight press conference was difficult, Sonnen said. Jackson landed multiple hard punches to his body, especially in the third round.
“I was kind of suffering through that press conference a little bit and just trying to get out of there,” Sonnen said. “I was trying to maintain my composure when really i just wanted to lay down and go ‘ahhh!’ Scream out in some discomfort. That’s what that was.”