Chael Sonnen: 'I Still Feel I Can Win the Championship'

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Chael Sonnen: 'I Still Feel I Can Win the Championship'
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

UFC Fight Night 26 headliner Chael Sonnen certainly isn't lacking confidence heading into a critical matchup with Mauricio Rua Saturday night. 

Speaking to The Daily Mail, "The American Gangster" showcased that he still has big goals in this sport despite coming up short in all three of his UFC title bouts:

I’m the biggest draw in the business. It’s a revolving door; I was the highest-paid fighter in the business and that’s a compliment. Then Georges [St-Pierre] came back and now I’m not but I hang on to those things. They’re small titles but they’re titles all the same. I haven’t reached my goals, any of them. I’m chasing the same thing I always was. This isn’t a top contender fight but we’re both ranked in the top 10. He’s a former world champion, I’ve never been a UFC champion before. It’s a big deal to me, I can tell you that much. I still feel I can win the championship. I can’t think of a fighter who doesn’t think they can win the championship. That’s just the reality of the sport. I’m still competing at a high level and training at a very high level.

Love him or hate him, fans, fighters and analysts alike agree that Sonnen has the mic skills to hype a fight like no other. However, some have recently began to question if the 36-year-old's best days inside the cage are behind him. 

Sonnen is in a must-win situation to remain a relevant title contender in the UFC, since he is 2-3 in his past five bouts, having come up short against Anderson Silva and Jon Jones in his most recent fights. 

In his defense, the Oregonian has won seven of his past eight non-title matchups. Also, while Sonnen has never won a world title for a major promotion, he soundly defeated WEC middleweight champ Paulo Filho in November 2008, though his belt wasn't on the line since the Brazilian missed weight for the contest.

Of course, this light heavyweight scrap is just as important for "Shogun," a former divisional champion. 

Rua has alternated wins and losses inside the Octagon since October 2009, having not gotten a win streak going since scoring back-to-back TKOs over Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell in the same year. 

With a loss here, it would seem pretty clear that Rua's time as a serious title contender are behind him now. 

Despite both men being consider top-tier competitors, both only have a .500 record inside the Octagon. Sonnen is 6-6 under the UFC banner, while Rua is 5-5 inside the world's number 1 MMA organization, a far cry from his 12-1 record inside the Pride ring.

Will Sonnen's wrestling and constant pressure be the deciding factor tonight or will the hard-hitting Rua show that he has at least one more vintage knockout left in the tank? 

John Heinis is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA Editor for eDraft.com.

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