If you told someone at the beginning of the year that Chael Sonnen would close out his 2013 campaign with a fight against Rashad Evans, chances you would have been quickly asked just how much you follow the sport. Even after Sonnen tapped out “Shogun” Rua at UFC FN 26 in August, most people believed “The American Gangsta” would likely throw down with longtime rival Wanderlei Silva or Vitor Belfort next, not a guy he had never called out.
Of course, in the end, Sonnen and Evans agreed to fight at this Saturday’s UFC 167, even though the two are friends and co-workers with FOX Sports. Sonnen was always open about the fact he really wanted to compete at the promotion’s 20th Anniversary Show, and “Suga” ended up being the best option. The former middleweight contender recently told MMA Junkie.com the following, while discussing what led to his bout with Evans.
“If there was a fighter I would have chosen to stay away from it would have been Rashad,” Sonnen noted. “That’s not a reality. We’re both veterans, we’re both leaders within the organization; we’re not going to send a message to the younger guys, or the other guys that it’s okay to avoid matches. It’s not. You’ve got to go out and compete.”
Not surprisingly, there hasn’t been much in the way of trash talk heading into the bout, although Evans recently said he’s not sure Sonnen’s completely focused on the fight. The reason being that the charismatic fighter has continued to perform commentating duties for FOX Sports. Not only that, but the UFC has already announced that Sonnen will coach opposite Silva in the next season of TUF Brazil, and that he’ll fight his nemesis after the show concludes.
“I come from a wrestling background; we take on four, five guys in one day, so I’ve never really got into that concept of focusing and things like that,” said Sonnen, when asked if he’s completely focused on Evans although he’s also committed to fighting “Wand”. “I don’t completely know what that has to do with the sport, but eventually they’ll call my name and when they do, I’ll walk out there.”
If Sonnen ends up losing quickly, it will be interesting to see whether questions regarding his focus are raised again. Of course if he wins, there will be none of that, as he will have defeated two former light-heavyweight champs in a row.
Stay tuned to Fightline.com for all your UFC 167 news and coverage.