LeBron James apparently no longer has to watch his back with the idea that Chael Sonnen may be on the hunt for him.
Sonnen, when asked Thursday morning about the NBA’s most high-profile star, and alleged comments James had made directed at Sonnen’s fianceé, now wife, Brittany Smith, said everything had been worked out.
“LeBron’s off the hook,” Sonnen said on the Toucher & Rich Morning show in Boston. “LeBron has made it right.” When asked what that meant, Sonnen said, “That’s between LeBron and me. He did the right thing, and I forgave him.”
With Sonnen, who faces Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the main event on Aug. 17 at the TD Garden in Boston on the opening night for Fox Sports 1, there is a thin line between what is and isn’t meant to be taken seriously. What makes Sonnen tick in some eyes, and a complete frustration in others, is that he never lets on what is what.
Sonnen went off on James during an appearance on Jim Rome’s Showtime television show five weeks ago, and a week later, did an interview with Bleacher Report giving his reasoning.
“This guy walked up to my fiancee backstage and asks her if there’s a Tic Tac in her blouse or if she was just happy to see him,” related Sonnen.
He also claimed another incident, which took place last year when Sonnen fought his second fight against Anderson Silva in Las Vegas.
“I had a UFC employee tell me he saw a mother wheel her handicapped child up to him to get a picture,” Sonnen said. “LeBron was talking toward them. When he reached the kid, the mother stopped the wheelchair. LeBron took the wheelchair, wheeled it out of the way and kept walking. I’d like to slap the divots right off his face.”
Sonnen, most likely with his tongue in cheek, talked about how before the two made amends, he was going to beat James up and tweet out photos of it. But in his next sentence, he tempered that.
“I wasn’t going to punch him. I wasn’t going to hurt him,” Sonnen said.
For now, Sonnen at 36, having come off consecutive losses to two of the sport’s all-time best in Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, is trying to get over the theme that age is irrelevant, at least when it come to his own fighting career. While age is already somewhat relevant, in his fight with Rua the question becomes age or mileage.
Sonnen (27-13-1) has a lifetime of wrestling, and it was more than 16 years ago when he had his first MMA fight. But Rua (21-7), at 31, went through wars in the gym in his Chute Boxe days, and has been bothered by two bad knees from the start of his UFC career.
Still, he’s hardly a pushover. Rua has lost three of his last five, but everybody loses at light heavyweight to Jon Jones. His loss to Dan Henderson was in a fight he dominated late that many had as a draw, and is among the greatest MMA fights in history. But he also struggled in a win over Brandon Vera and lost a decision to Alexander Gustafsson in his two fights last year.
Sonnen’s analogy is that a third grader isn’t afraid of the kids in kindergarten, and when he was a senior in high school, it wasn’t a disadvantage against the freshman and sophomores.
The best analogy for Sonnen’s career may be that close only counts in horseshoes. He was dominating Paulo Filho from start-to-finish in a WEC middleweight title fight, only to lose via submission. In a rematch, Filho missed weight badly, Sonnen dominated again, but due to Filho missing weight the title wasn’t at stake.
When he moved to UFC, he dominated Anderson Silva for four-and-a-half rounds in one of the more memorable fights in company history, before being submitted from the bottom. But Silva clearly beat him in a rematch.
He was losing the entire light heavyweight title fight to Jones on April 27 in Newark, N.J., before it was stopped at 4:33 of the first round. Ironically, with Jones’ suffering an ugly dislocated toe in the first round, had Sonnen survived the last 27 seconds, there is little chance Jones would have been allowed to go out for the second round. At that point, Sonnen would have been awarded the fight and become one of the most unlikely champions in UFC history.
Sonnen did think the fight was stopped early, but made it clear he doesn’t want to come across as complaining about it.
“It was the biggest drawing fight of the year [actually it was No. 2 on pay-per-view behind Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz, at least going into the recent Silva vs. Chris Weidman fight], and I took a good solid ass whipping.”
“I appreciate the fact he did that (the ref stopped the Jones fight), but it was definitely an early stoppage. You don’t want to second guess it. It goes both ways. I’ve been in a position where I’ve been barely doing any damage and the ref stopped it. It’s just sport. You don’t cry over spilled milk. You pick yourself up and walk out.”
If you’re hoping to see the return of the trash talking Sonnen, who put his name on the map as one of MMA’s biggest drawing cards in his two fights with Anderson Silva, you may be disappointed.
“Rua seems like a really great guy,” he said. “He’s one of the few legends that are still fighting. Anytime you get old and you retire from the sport, there’s been an instant assignment of legend status. He truly is a legend. I admire him. I admire what he’s done in the ring. He’s not me, but he is very good.”
Another person Sonnen has been dishing out lots of love for is new middleweight champion Chris Weidman. Sonnen made it clear to anyone who would listen to him, that Weidman was going to take the title from Anderson Silva when public perception was very different, so he can’t be accused of jumping on a bandwagon.
While some considered it a shocking upset, the truth is a lot of people within the industry believed Weidman would win, although few would have predicted it would be a second round knockout standing.
Because of that, the first question Sonnen was asked about the UFC 162 fight was if Silva threw the fight.
“Well, here’s what you’ve got to understand, he got knocked out cold,” said Sonnen. “It’s not like a Mike Tyson fight where you get hit, you stay down until the ref counts ten, and then get right back up. Silva had two choices in that fight. He’d have fought serious and got beaten up, or he’d clown around and get beaten up. That’s not me speaking out against Anderson. He’s excellent. But Anderson’s not Chris Weidman and he’s never going to be.”
Once again, that led to the same question, at 38, whether age is or isn’t relevant.
“I don’t know if he’s in the downside of his career,” said Sonnen when asked if Weidman caught Silva on his decline. “He’s just not Chris Weidman. He just stuck around too long and the next generation is here. There are guys who can beat him, but only a couple of guys. He’s a top ten fighter, actually he’s ranked No. 2, but he’s not going to beat a 28-year-old All-American wrestler named Chris Weidman. That’s not going to happen.”
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