Chael Sonnen said he intends to return to light heavyweight following his elimination from the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix.
“The American Gangster” was TKO’d at the end of the first round against Fedor Emelianenko in their semifinals bout. Sonnen defeated Quinton “Rampage” Jackson via unanimous decision to advance from the quarterfinals back in January, but most of Jackson’s career was fought at 205. Emelianenko, a smaller but natural heavyweight, gave Sonnen issues with his size and power.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been ground and pounded like that,” Sonnen said to the media following Bellator 208.
Sonnen, who competed as a middleweight for most of his MMA career, is 1-1 as a light heavyweight under the Bellator banner. He lost to Tito Ortiz in his debut fight, but defeated Wanderlei Silva in their grudge match.
“I think 205 is more appropriate”
Sonnen feels the rest of his career would be best spent back down at 205. He’d only compete one more time at heavyweight: against Matt Mitrione if Bellator President Scott Coker wants to make a fight for bronze in the Grand Prix.
“If they want to do a losers ball and play this thing all the way out ‘til third like the Olympics, then maybe we do that,” Sonnen said. “But I don’t know, that’s up to Scott Coker. But if you ask me what weight class I’d rather be in, I think 205 is more appropriate. There are guys I need to fight there, too.”
Sonnen said he feels he’s the No. 1-ranked contender at light heavyweight, potentially setting up a fight with champion Ryan Bader once Bader is done fighting Emelianenko for the heavyweight championship and Grand Prix title. Bader could be a two-division champion by the time that rolls around.
“I am ranked No. 1 at light heavyweight and I did think I was going to see Bader in the finals of this tournament,” he said. “But let’s see how it goes. I don’t think it’d be appropriate for me to step in front of someone [following his loss to Emelianenko].”
Bellator doesn’t have an official rankings system. Some other top-contenders at the weight-class include Phil Davis (0-2 vs. Bader), Linton Vassell (0-1 vs. Bader), Vadim Nemkov and Liam McGeary.
While Sonnen will re-join the fray at light heavyweight, he wanted to point out his success as a first-time heavyweight.
“Gentlemen, I must remind you I was just in the Final 4 of the baddest dudes in the world,” he said. “This wasn’t exactly like Old Chael got cleaned up in the parking lot on a Saturday. I was down to the Final 4 on a weight class I’ve never been in.”