Former UFC middleweight and light heavyweight title contender Chael Sonnen has fought some of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport.
He gave Anderson Silva a run for his money before falling short of a one-sided, five-round victory in 2010. His second fight against Silva seemed to be heading in the same direction after one round, only to see Sonnen TKOd in Round 2.
Sonnen also fought former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. That fight wasn’t nearly as close as either of the title matches against Silva, but it did ensure Sonnen would be etched in the lonely wall of names belonging to men who faced both of two the two most dominant male fighters in UFC history.
Both Silva and Jones are firmly cemented in the conversation to determine the sport’s greatest fighter of all time. Some say Silva, some say Jones.
Plenty others leave both of those talented fighters out of the conversation, pointing at one legendary fighter as the recipient of mixed martial arts’ greatest honor—Fedor Emelianenko.
Be sure and leave Sonnen out of the group that argues in favor of “The Last Emperor,” though.
He told Submission Radio (h/t BloodyElbow):
“Fedor is terrible. And Fedor is a very nice guy. I had the pleasure to meet him twice. The first time, I was in line with him at a Starbucks in a hotel in Los Angeles, and he just blended in. He was just a chubby bald guy, with a nerdy sweater, waiting for his latte like everybody else. And I thought, ‘what a nice guy.’
“The reality on Fedor is, if you’re not fighting in a commissioned fight, you’re not fighting in a real fight. It has to be a sanctioned commission fight. This comes right back what we were talking about with Holly and her quadrillion boxing championships. If there’s no sanctioning and there’s no credibility and architecture, it doesn’t count. So everything he did in Japan with a referee wearing an earpiece gets thrown out.”
Emelianenko recently announced he’d be coming back to the sport of MMA. Having spent three years on the shelf, Emelianenko looks to continue building on his three-fight winning streak toward becoming a world champion again.
Some have speculated Emelianenko’s next fight would take place inside of the Octagon—a scenario that fight fans have been dreaming of since he and former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar ruled the heavyweight division from different hemispheres.
Speculations being what they are, we can’t talk about any hypothetical matchups just yet. As far as Sonnen sees it, though, he only prefers to see Emelianenko take his talents to the United States.
“You’ve got to come to the States where there’s an official weigh-in, where there’s a regulatory body, and where there’s clearer defined rules, with clearer defined judging,” Sonnen said. “He did that. He did that six times and he went 3-3. That’s not exactly an impressive record for a guy that we all keep having to hear is ‘the best of all time.’ Now God bless him, I love a guy that can come back, but I can tell you first hand, you don’t get better not doing something.”
This isn’t the first time Sonnen questioned any of the mixed martial arts fighters competing outside of the U-S-of-A. He went on a firestorm against former rival Wanderlei Silva and several other iconic fighters from the PRIDE era back in 2011 when speaking to Ariel Helwani.
“Wanderlei’s going to go 22 straight wins in Japan and he can’t win two straight in America? Mirko Cro Cop’s going to win all those fights in Japan and he can’t beat anybody in America? Fedor’s going to win all those fights in Japan and he’s 3-2 in America? And one of those wins is over a guy who was flipping tires at Sam’s Club the month before,” Sonnen said.
“Kid’ Yamamoto, 10 years, they told us he was the greatest featherweight to ever live. He can’t win a round in the UFC, let alone win a fight… The Japanese circuit is fake, it’s always been fake. None of those guys won those fights.”
Sonnen went 9-8 during his tenure with the WEC and UFC—two United States promotions that abide by Sonnen’s demand for regulatory rules when hosting competitions.
But he also ran into a few issues of his own, testing positive for elevated testosterone levels during his first bout with Anderson Silva. Four years later, Sonnen tested positive for human growth hormone and several other banned substances in the lead-up to his long-awaited showdown with Wanderlei Silva.