Ring rust is always a major concern for fighters coming back from a long lay-off, and you can count middleweight contender Chael Sonnen amongst those who does believe that it has a detrimental affect on their performance in the cage.
Unlike most competitors Sonnen isn’t coming back from an injury however, he is instead returning from 14 months on the sidelines brought about by a suspension for using testosterone and a court case related to mortgage fraud. The legal issues surrounding those meant that Sonen’s focus has been elsewhere other than fighting for much of his time out.
Now, with those matters finally behind him and a new fight against Brian Stann on the horizon at UFC 136 on October 8th, Sonnen is finally getting back out on the mat, and he’s the first to admit that he’s not firing on all cylinders yet.
“I forgot what it’s like,” Sonnen admits to MMA Live’s Jon Anik on ESPN yesterday. “I forgot what it’s like to be sore every day and tired every day and living life uncomfortable due to the training regimin. I forgot a lot of this stuff, so I’m getting back into it and I’ve got a little race to the finishing line – the battle itself is less than two months away. So, it’s a process.”
Putting his cards on the table the 34 year-old then admits that in all likelihood we’re not going to be witnessing the best version of Chael Sonnen we’ve ever seen in Houston, Texas on October 8th.
“You push as hard as you can, but look, ring rust is a real thing. It’s going to be a step back. I won’t be at my best on that night and I’m not gonna lie to myself and make believe that I will be.” Sonnen says candidly.
So, in hindsight Sonnen may be wishing that he had spent more of his free time training over the course of the last year or so, but one thing he can’t say is that he wasn’t warned about this.
In fact Sonnen’s friend and training partner Matt Lindland publically urged him to put in the hours at the gym earlier this year.
“Chael is in the gym, not as frequent as he should be,” Lindland stated back in February. “Three or four times a week is not as frequent as he should be. He should probably be putting in high volume doing doubles everyday right now building his skill sets while he has some time off.”
That’s what former light-heavyweight champion Rashad Evans did with his equally lengthy and, for the most part, injury-free lay-off, focusing on his skills and training year-round and it showed in the Octagon earlier this month when he looked arguably the best we’ve ever seen him in the UFC and with no signs of ring-rust.
You don’t want to leave anything to chance in this fickle sport and with so much riding on his fight with the fast-risingStann, including a potential title rematch with Anderson Silva, the outspoken fighter may yet live to regret it.