He's grown accustomed to the money and the attention that comes along with competing in marquee main event fights, but for Chael Sonnen, the role of headlining UFC bouts could soon become a thing of the past.
After a pair of unsuccessful title shots against former middleweight king Anderson Silva and a failed attempt at taking Jon Jones' light heavyweight strap, Sonnen will try his hand for the fourth time in a main event bout at UFC Fight Night 26, which will be aired Saturday on Fox Sports 1.
Rather than fighting another divisional linchpin, the 36-year-old Sonnen will tangle with former light heavyweight champ Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in what he claims will signify his last bout at 205 pounds.
When Sonnen inked his five-fight deal with the UFC in July, the Oregonian mentioned that he'll make the ascent back to the 185-pound division following his fight with the equally desperate Rua.
Will Chael Sonnen ever score a main-event bout in the UFC following his scrap with Mauricio Rua at UFC Fight Night 26?
If Sonnen, who's ranked No. 9 in the UFC's middleweight division, can end his two-fight losing skid with a win over Shogun (No. 8 at light heavyweight), then the former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler may find himself in another main event at 185 in his next bout.
Conversely, loss to the 31-year-old Rua would mean three setbacks in a row and four in six fights for "The American Gangster." Only UFC Hall of Famers like Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz scored main event fights following lengthy rough patches in their careers.
Sonnen acknowledged the added pressure on his shoulders during the UFC Fight Night 26 pre-fight media call, but explained that, like Shogun, he won't deviate from his typical routine.
I will be going straight ahead, and he will be too. Not only is that how we fight, I can speak for him as well, we both have our skills and we're going to bring our skills. But in addition, we're main event. And you can't play around when you're in the main event. It's going to be a lot of action, whether it's positive or negative, I don't know. I'm in the same boat as everybody else. I gotta tune in to find out, as well, but there will not be a feeling out. As soon as they say go, we will.
Aside from the strain of competing in his third straight five-round main event bout, The American Gangster also must contend with locking horns with another Brazilian. In his career, Sonnen holds a 1-5 record against Brazilian-born fighters, losing four of those bouts via submission and another by TKO.
The shortcomings he experienced in the past against Brazilians may have prompted Sonnen to lash out linguistically against the likes of Anderson Silva, Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort, just to name a few. However, Sonnen has shown respect, at least by his standards, regarding Shogun during pre-fight media functions.
In fact, The American Gangster even attempted to explain and justify the verbal assaults he's launched on Brazilians by saying:
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
I wouldn't poke fun at somebody if they were weak. I wouldn't go bully somebody. The fact that those guys have a lot of belts and a lot of history and a lot of good wins behind them is why they became the target. It's the same reason I poke fun and go after the champions, and so should everybody else. I'm not going to sidestep anybody. I'm not going to back down from anybody at any weight. And most importantly, I'm not going to pick on a guy that's weaker or smaller than me. Outside of Wanderlei, I never have.
If Sonnen intends to score another main-event bout in the near future, perhaps against Wanderlei Silva or Belfort, then he must get back to his winning ways.
Regardless of his ability to spew verbal gold, The American Gangster can't afford another loss, especially one via knockout or submission.