As much as Chael Sonnen had been a masterful trash-talker in the build-up to his fight with Anderson Silva at UFC 148 last night, he was also extremely gracious in defeat after being TKO’d by the long-reigning champion in the second round.
“They gave me the opportunity. Nobody owes me anything. I’m very grateful to be here and have this chance and he’s a true champion, man,” was Sonnen’s immediate reaction in the cage during his interview with Joe Rogan.
At the post-fight press conference Sonnen continued to be dignified in his reaction to what must have been a tough loss to take.
“I think it’s very important when you lose a fight that you don’t say things like, ‘my opponent was better…tonight’. The better guy wins every time. The better guy wins again.”
At one point during the second round Silva grabbed Sonnen’s shorts to stop him getting away, but the challenger wasn’t looking for any excuses to explain why he lost.
“We can’t sit and nitpick some of that stuff. It’s a two-man sport. It evens itself out. What goes around, comes around. If Anderson grabbed my shorts tonight, I’ll grab somebody elses down the road.”
As for the missed spinning backfist that resulted in Sonnen falling onto the mat, he admits it wasn’t one of his finer moments.
“I feel like a doofus because I fell down, but when you’re on the mat in the middle of battle there was some parts out there where I felt really good and there were some parts that really hurt, including the end.”
Prior to that Sonnen had put on an excellent display of dominance on the mat in the first round of the fight, but looking back he feels that it was significant that unlike their first fight he wasn’t able to really hurt the champion during that five minute spell.
“I’m always trying to find that good shot that can change a fight and start to wear a guy down, make him think twice, and yeah, I wasn’t able to find it.”
As much as Sonnen was being humble in defeat, Silva also made a real effort to attempt to cast aside their differences and urged the Brazilian fans to applaud him in the Octagon after the fight. It was something that Sonnen says he appreciated.
“That’s the way you deal with combat. You always shake hands and you always leave it in the Octagon, or in the ring or on the mat. Those are the rules. I follow those same rules. That was great that he did it, it was very nice for me.”
Despite the fact that some of his controversial comments in the past have lead to him having a rocky relationship with the Brazilian fans, he also took the opportunity to praise him for the way they supported their man on the night.
“The Brazilian fans have it down right. They back their guy.”
So what comes next for Sonnen? It seems he doesn’t have a definitive answer just yet, though he has some strong opinions on the matter in general.
“I really believe that if you are in this company and you are going to take up a spot then you’ve got to be chasing the championship. Don’t be there just to…there’s plenty of young guys that could come in and get their opportunity, and I had my chance, and then I got it again.
I’m not going to ask for anything, I’m grateful for it. I’ll make those decisions later, but I will not hang around, not for one day to blend in. It’s either be the world champ or move on and do something else.”
Finally, Sonnen was asked if he can take solace from the fact that he gave perhaps the best fighter ever in the sport such a tough time in their two fights together.
“You know, I don’t. It’s pass or fail when you’re in there. You either get it done or you don’t. I was getting a lot of compliments after the first fight, and I said ‘gee guys, that’s nice, but did you see who won the fight?’ I didn’t win the fight. It’s pass of fail, that’s it. He’s just a regular guy, he’s another guy. We weigh the same thing. And he find a way to win and I admire it.”