West Linn's Chael Sonnen seeks redemption in MMA rematch with Anderson Silva
TUALATIN -- Country music blends with the rhythmic pounding of boxing glove on bag inside a Tualatin training center. The self-called bad guy goes to work.
Mixed martial artist Chael Sonnen, 35, jabs the bobbing bag, his coaches keeping close watch. Sweat pools at his feet. His chin is low, eyes dark in concentration. There's still room to improve, even with 12 days left until the biggest fight of his career, some say the biggest fight in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championships.
On July 7, Sonnen will take on reigning champion Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight championship.
Sonnen, of West Linn, has dwelled on this fight for the past two years. Silva, "The Spider," has won more consecutive fights than any other competitor in the UFC and has defended his championship belt nine times.Cheap Oakley Sunglasses but got caught in a submission hold with two minutes to go in the fifth and final round.
With next week's rematch, the underdog demands redemption.
UFC 148 was originally planned for Silva's home country of Brazil, but due to scheduling conflicts was moved to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The promotion company anticipates a sell-out crowd and 1 million pay-per-view sales. It will be aired in 147 countries and 20 languages.
Sonnen says he knows what it will take this time to win: Heart. Toughness.
But it will also require intense skill in the disciplines of mixed martial arts -- boxing, jiu-jitsu, karate and his specialty, wrestling, among them. He sharpens them at the Team Quest Training Center in Tualatin, three hours a day.
"5, 4, 3, 2, 1, hey!" McQuary yells. On cue, Sonnen delivers a forceful "wham" to the bag, ending a repetition of punches. The drill teaches him to throw the hard punch even when he's tired. The punch that could knock out Silva.
"People ask me, 'Are you excited?' 'Are you having fun?'" Sonnen said. "The answer's no. I'm not excited and I'm definitely not having fun. This is very serious and hard, hard work."
Sonnen began wrestling at age 9, following his cousins, uncles and father. He went on to become a champion wrestler at West Linn High School, an All-American wrestler at the University of Oregon and then an alternate for the 2000 Olympic team. As a professional mixed martial artist, he has won 25 matches and lost 11.
Controversy hit his career in recent years. In 2011, Sonnen was convicted of money laundering, abandoned a run for the state Legislature and served a suspension after a failed drug test.
Now, Sonnen says, he's sharper, ornerier and hungrier than ever.
He takes a Cheap Oakleys from the punching bag, chest heaving. Johnny Cash plays in the background. His coaches offer encouragement.
It's time for the next combat skill. But first, Claudia Sonnen, his mother, rushes over to pour water into his mouth.
Claudia Sonnen loves the sport and hates it at the same time. At first, it seemed impossible to watch her son fight. "I didn't know, if someone was beating him up, if they could keep me out of the ring," she says. "I thought, how can I root for everything I've taught you not to do?"
Then, the former Milwaukie High School teacher began coming to practices. She started learning about the strategy. And she grew to admire the fighters.
Last year before a big fight, Sonnen looked at Claudia and said, "Mom, we have a fight to win." Ever since, Claudia says she's barely missed a practice.
Sonnen's toughness dissipates when talking about his mom and his home.
"I was born in Oregon, I will die in Oregon," he says. "I am very loyal to Oregon . . . and I want to win this for all of them."
This year the fighter expanded his repertoire, co-opening a pizza shop in West Linn fittingly named Mean Street Pizza, and publishing a Wholesale Oakley Sunglasses.
Whether written or spoken, his words are something Sonnen is known for. In the realm of UFC, he's a fierce trash talker.
On Tuesday, his opponent made headlines with a heated reaction to Sonnen's vitriol, unusual for Silva.
The next day in Tualatin, Sonnen, who tries to tame his fury for the local crowd, unleashed.
"All of a sudden he's gonna come at me like I'm gonna wilt or something," he said. "He promised to knock my teeth out, he promised to break my jaw, he promised to break my head ... He acts like I've never been to the orthodontist before. He acts like I've never had my jaw set before. He acts like I never had my head stapled shut before. Who cares! Take the teeth, take the jaw, take the head. The one thing he didn't say was accurate. He didn't say he was going to stop me."
Quick-talking and fiery, Sonnen continues.
"He didn't say he was going to break my will. He didn't say he was going to break my spirit, and he didn't say he was going to leave with that championship. And he's not."
Then, he smiles.
"You got me all riled up."
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