Lots of folks are looking for a piece of Chael Sonnen these days. Following an impressive submission victory over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, "The American Gangster" called out former Pride great Wanderlei Silva.
Not so fast, though.
Vitor Belfort threw his hat into the Chael Sonnen ring immediately after. Now even less fast! Former light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida also expressed his interest to fight the powerful wrestler, via Twitter:
Lyoto Machida (@lyotomachidafw) August 18, 2013
When a number of former champions line up to fight you, it must mean you're doing something right.
Sonnen has had a long-standing feud with Brazilian fighters ever since his wide-ranging rants regarding at-the-time middleweight champ Anderson Silva. During the year-and-a-half he jawed at "The Spider," he took shots at numerous well-regarded teammates and former teammates, including both Belfort and Machida, as well as other random fighters such as Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva.
As one of the most recognizable, marketable and (like it or not) popular fighters in the sport, Sonnen is a hot commodity, and the big win at UFC Fight Night 26 makes him an even better opponent.
While fights with Silva, Machida and Belfort are all marketable and make sense from a ratings and rankings perspective, the big question here is what Sonnen plans to do in terms of his weight. Last month, Sonnen expressed the desire to go back down to his old stomping grounds at 185 pounds after two fights at 205 pounds.
Belfort has been locked in as the top contender at 185 pounds for a little while now. Machida has been at 205 pounds for the majority of his career but recently expressed interest in a fight with Belfort and has always been a candidate for a drop to middleweight. Silva fought at middleweight from 2010 through 2012 but went back to light heavyweight earlier this year for his fight with Brian Stann and plans to stay there.
Focusing strictly on a fight with Machida, it would be one of the most interesting striker-vs.-grappler matchups of all time. However, if Chris Weidman maintains his spot as champion, Sonnen could realistically find himself challenging for the middleweight belt again.
A win over Belfort would instantly make him a top contender, and that isn't the case with Machida. Regardless, keep an eye on how things pan out with Sonnen from here.