“Physically, everything hurts,” said Sonnen. “[Emelianenko] hit me with a missile about five-seconds in. That one still hurts a little bit. But other than that, I am doing well…My teeth are okay. If I had one wish going into a fight, aside from serious injury, it’s that I won’t lose a tooth. I had that same wish since I started this when I was 19 years old. But, yes they are all intact.
“Emotionally, I get heartbroken about these things. From a competitive standpoint, I have dedicated my whole life to this since I was nine years old and I would have started earlier if my dad would have let me. He wouldn’t let me start until I was nine. It hurts. It hurts really bad that you don’t get those moments back.”
For Sonnen, this is just the latest setback in his career against a man many consider one of the all-time greats. In the past, the former UFC title challenger was put away by champions Anderson Silva and Jon Jones in their title fights inside the octagon. He also came up short against former champions Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, the outspoken Sonnen broke down what it was like to face the music that came with losing on the grandest stage.
“I’ve had these feelings before,” said Sonnen. “I am convinced, in my interpretation, this is what it means to be a fighter. Somewhere over time that word became corrupted. It became about the punches and the kicks. But I’ve always believed it’s feeling like I’m feeling right now and getting out of bed anyway and facing the media and getting back on it. So now I have to be a fighter. I prefer to be a winner, I prefer to be on top of the world and looking down on everybody els. But today I’ve got to fight.”
During the fight, outside of being starched in the opening seconds, Sonnen relentlessly worked to secure a takedown. A multiple-time Sambo champion, Emelianenko continuously negated Sonnen’s s wrestling-based attack to keep the fight standing. From here, “The Last Emperor” battered Sonnen with a barrage of punches en route to securing the victory.
“I’ve fought 49 guys, well I guess 50 counting Fedor, and I’ve never been out-struck,” said Sonnen. “Not one single time have I lost the stand up part of a fight. I can’t say that anymore. This is first stand up I’ve ever lost. I didn’t think he was fast enough to catch me. I thought I’d be too quick. So I was going across and distract him with some punches and get into a clinch or get into a double leg and make it a wrestling match. I wanted to have my hands on him at all times. I was ready for some of those Sambo throws, I was ready for them to go against me, I was ready for him to succeed with those throws and have to scramble on the mat.
“It wasn’t like a real sophisticated game plan as much as it was just pressure-based. I just wanted to fight him. I wanted to be on him and wanted him to have to respond. But I also thought I could take his shots. I still didn’t see those punches. They were so fast and I was so impressed. In spite of hanging my head here today, I have to give him his credit. He earned it. I’ve got to credit his speed and his power, they were very difficult for me.”
For fans who have followed Emelianenko’s career, this display of violence was nothing new. During his reign of terror through promotions such as Pride, Affliction and Strikeforce, the Russian routinely put away larger heavyweights such as Brett Rogers, Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia.
Sonnen, a natural light heavyweight, actually thought the size difference would open more avenues for victory compared to Emelianenko’s past opponents. Too bad he didn’t have more time test this theory.
“(Emelianenko) is hitting these guys but these guys are heavy bags,” said Sonnen. “These guys aren’t bouncing, these guys aren’t moving, these guys aren’t offering a threat of a takedown or an accuracy of a takedown. I just thought ‘I am going to be able to deal with this. It doesn’t matter that it’s at heavyweight. I am smart enough and I’m athletic enough to be able to deal with this.’
“I just wish I had more minutes. Anytime you get stopped, that’s my usually biggest wish. Even in front of getting my hand raised, just more opportunity to try and more minutes to see if I could explore some things or find some success. But yeah, he hit like a heavyweight.”
As for what’s next in his career, Sonnen claims he’s willing to take on anyone but is just hoping it comes at light heavyweight.
“When I get a phone call and they have an idea, I say yes,” said Sonnen. “But ideally, I liked to go back to light heavyweight. I had a really hard time in both of my heavyweights getting to some of the positions I wanted to be in. So I think physically, it’s a little better for me at light heavyweight.”