Chael Sonnen expresses confidence in Ronda Rousey's fighting, multi-tasking ability
Mixed martial arts: UFC light heavyweight drops by Los Angeles, has words of wisdom, confidence for Glendale-trained champ.
UFC champion and Glendale-trained Ronda Rousey, center, received a boost of support from fellow UFC fighter Chael Sonnen at a press conference Monday afternoon in Los Angeles. (Raul Roa/File Photo)
Another is that Rousey, who trains at the Glendale Fighting Club, and Sonnen have plenty on their plates as it relates to inside the octagon and out.
As “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show, featuring Rousey and archrival Miesha Tate as opposing coaches, plays out on television screens every Wednesday on Fox Sports 1, Rousey has undergone a whirlwind schedule, as she left not long after taping concluded for “TUF” in early July to film “The Expendables 3” in Bulgaria and has just recently returned from filming “Fast and Furious 7.” All of this comes ahead of a title rematch with Tate on Dec. 28.
Long regarded for her work ethic and ability to balance unprecedented media exposure, Rousey has a hectic schedule that might be too much for some, but Sonnen believes she can handle it and said as much Monday afternoon at Fleming’s Steakhouse in Los Angeles when asked what advice he would give the former United States Olympic bronze medalist in judo.
“I would just say make sure you don’t miss practice. Do whatever you want, there’s 24 hours in a day, we’re only at practice about three hours a day,” Sonnen said. “So, do whatever you want in those other 21, but don’t miss practice. That’s really the only way she’s gonna stay on top or stay sharp, or for any athlete. And I think she’s got the discipline and focus to do that. My assumption is, wherever she’s going, even all the way to Bulgaria, she’s lining up workouts and staying disciplined. But I don’t know, we’ll find out on Dec. 28.”
And Sonnen is predicting the outcome of the Rousey-Tate rematch will be the same as the first time they fought in March of 2012 when Rousey won via first-round armbar to claim the Strikeforce championship (which later led to Rousey being crowned with the UFC title). Rousey is 7-0 after the first-ever defense of the UFC women’s bantamweight title in February, while Tate is 13-4 and ranked second in the division in the UFC rankings.
“They fought before and it wasn’t very competitive. To act as though that gap has not only been shrunken, but closed and veered in the other direction is very wishful, but stranger things have happened. But right now, there’s a gap: There’s Ronda and there’s everybody else.”
In terms of balancing training and other endeavors, Sonnen is going through much the same situation as he will fight Rashad Evans on Saturday at UFC 167 in Las Vegas on a card headlined by the UFC welterweight title defense of Georges St. Pierre against Johny Hendricks. An analyst on “UFC Tonight” on Fox Sports 1, Sonnen already has a grudge match lined up against Wanderlei Silva some time in 2014 after the two conclude taping a season of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” as opposing coaches.
“There’s a distraction there. I always like a distraction, I’m not into focusing — I don’t know what that means,” said Sonnen, who pointed out his wrestling background in which he would fight multiple opponents every day, never knowing who his next matchup was against. “I like that, I’m familiar with that.”
Like Rousey, Sonnen (28-13-1, No. 6 in UFC light heavyweight rankings) is headed for a fight with an opponent he’s shared plenty of television time with.
Sonnen, who holds notable wins over the likes of Michael Bisping, Brian Stann and Mauricio Rua, and memorably challenged Anderson Silva twice for the middleweight title, often shares the “UFC Tonight” studio with Evans, while Rousey opposed Tate on “The Ultimate Fighter.” Unlike the documented dislike Rousey has for Tate, Sonnen considers Evans (18-3-1, No. 4 light heavyweight) a friend and Saturday a fight he did not ask for, but a card he needed to be a part of.
“This isn’t a fight I wanted. This isn’t a guy that I wanted to fight,” said Sonnen of Evans, a former UFC light heavyweight champion with wins over the likes of Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. “We work together, we talk often; it’s kind of awkward.”
But the card will stand as the 20th anniversary event for the UFC.
“I wanted to be on the card and Wanderlei wouldn’t do it, so I was out of options,” Sonnen said. “I wanted to be a part of the 20th anniversary card. It’s gonna be the biggest show in UFC history.
“There’s a lot of guys in the UFC that need to be beat up. I’m obligated to beat up a lot of these dirtbags and on the way to some of these scumbags, I gotta stop off with a good dude like Rashad.”
At Monday’s media luncheon, Sonnen went on to say that St. Pierre’s headlining bout against Nick Diaz at UFC 158 in March was the top-selling UFC pay-per-view of the year, with Sonnen’s challenging Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title in April at UFC 159 as No. 2. Thus, he believes Saturday’s event will be the top card of the year, though he admits the Dec. 28 card could challenge that, as it’s headlined by Anderson Silva taking on champion Chris Weidman in a UFC middleweight title rematch, with Rousey-Tate II as the co-main event.
“Georges and I are teaming up, we’re going to do big numbers,” Sonnen said. “I do recognize that Weidman and Anderson is a huge fight and I know I’ll be tuning in for that, too. I do have a debate with [UFC President] Dana [White] over which one is gonna be bigger and we’re gonna find out. This is going to be a huge night and this will set the record. Whether they come along and beat it, we’ll have to see.”
Sonnen also coached a previous season of “The Ultimate Fighter” in opposition of Jones. Rousey was even a guest coach for Sonnen's team during the season. Though many expected fireworks between the opposing coaches, that never truly came to that, unlike the current 18th season in which Rousey and Tate have exchanged a number of unpleasantries.
Sonnen believes it needs to be more about the prospective fighters competing for a UFC contract.
“You’re there to coach and that’s it. You’re there to motivate, lead and teach,” Sonnen said. “I think that both ladies have a done a fairly good job in giving their best efforts in that regard, despite some of the other things they have going on.”
On Monday, Sonnen also offered up who he believes will stand as Rousey’s most dangerous opponent in the future.
“The toughest girl I know, aside from Ronda … is a girl named Sara McMann,” Sonnen said.
McMann (7-0, No. 3 in UFC women’s bantamweight rankings) is a former U.S. Olympic silver medalist in 2004 — the same year Rousey made her first trip to the Olympics for judo.
“That’s the fight,” Sonnen said. “That’s the fight where people will have to tune in and think Ronda’s in danger.”
Until then, though, Sonnen firmly believes there’s plenty to look forward to on Saturday and when Rousey is part of the blockbuster Dec. 28 card.
“There’s just never been a more fun time to be a UFC fan,” Sonnen said.