Famous for unique personality and classic taunts against opponents before his fights, Chael Sonnen was in New York to promote Bellator 180, an event that “The American Gangster” will headline against his old rival Wanderlei Silva on June 24 at Madison Square Garden. The pre-fight banter started at an official press conference last week that the Brazilian only attended via video conference. But contrary to what one might imagine, Sonnen downplayed the absence of “The Axe Murderer” and instead took the opportunity to make it clear that the former Pride champion will not be able to hide from anti-doping tests.
In an exclusive interview with AG. Fight shortly after the press conference, Sonnen took the opportunity to explain why Silva, even in Brazil, will not be able to avoid tests. Contrary to what happens in the UFC, regional athletic commissions are responsible for conducting the tests for Bellator events, which, at least at first sight, would leave the Brazilian out of harm’s way as far as doping tests are concerned since he lives and trains outside the US. However, Sonnen claimed that in case the New York commission asks for an exam of Silva, he will only have 24 hours to hand over the requested material, no matter his current location.
“I’ve been on both sides and there is going to be testing”, Sonnen said. “It’s not true that the tests will stop happening. The world is not a big enough place to hide. I’ve seen (Scott) Coker
get asked this, I’ve seen Dana White get asked this and the promoters are almost stumbling for an answer. But the reality is that this is outside of their scope, the commission oversees that. It’s not the promoter’s job to even know the answers.”
“There’s 50 different jurisdictions within this country, and every time you’re getting asked that question (as a promoter), you’ve got to freeze and ask yourself, ‘Where am I standing today?’ Because if I’m in New York, then it’s New York, so I’ve got to answer Kim Sumbler (and her commission) […]. If Andy Foster calls me from California, I’ll have 24 hours to report to him for the test. That’s it. If I miss the phone call, my clock starts. If he leaves me a voice mail, my clock starts. If he sends me an email and I don’t check it, my clock starts and if you don’t meet it, you automatically fail. I’m no Wanderlei [Silva] fan, I know he has not shied away from tests, but if Kim Sumbler’s office calls and says he has 24 hours, he will have 24 hours. Whereever he is at.”
After analyzing the mechanics of anti-doping tests and Wanderlei Silvas situation in particular, Sonnen also gave his opinion on the rumored boxing match between UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor and boxing great Floyd Mayweather. As controversial as ever, the Bellator athlete indicated that all the responsibility and pressure is on the boxer’s side and claimed that if the fist fighter doesn’t beat the Irish MMA superstar within the first 30 seconds, the reputation of the entire sport will be at risk.
“I love McGregor against Mayweather (but) I don’t feel it’s a fight between boxing and MMA. It’s boxing versus its own reputation. If Conor makes it more than 30 seconds, it discredits the entire sport of boxing. If Conor makes it out of the first round, boxing is ruined. You’re taking a guy who has never lost in professional boxing against a guy who has never done professional boxing. I come from an amateur wrestling background and the best wrestler we have right now is a guy named David Taylor and if you brought someone over who has never wrestled before and put him against David Taylor, they would not make it 30 seconds. Definitely not. Maybe 12 seconds, I’m exaggerating to say 30.”
“Just to get to my point – you’re telling me that insiders from the sport of boxing are giving Conor McGregor a chance… That’s not a knock on Conor, that’s a knock on Floyd. It’s an embarrassment for the entire sport of boxing. Boxing is on the ropes right now and it should be, the sport sucks, its leadership sucks, it’s boring, it’s unparticipated in. I’m a professional fighter, I was 28 years old when I met my first boxer. I used to live at the Olympic training center that had a boxing program and I was 28 years old when I met my first man who’d ever been in a ring and actually laced them up and boxed on a Saturday night. It’s a fringe sport at best, but I respect it. I’ve been stunned to find out that other people don’t.”
At age 39, Chael Sonnen is coming off two straight defeats, one in the UFC and one in Bellator, and will have the chance to get back on track against Wanderlei Silva in the biggest event in Bellator history. Also set to compete on the card are names like Fedor Emelianenko and Douglas Lima, the promotion’s welterweight champion.