Chael Sonnen, unlike Tito Ortiz, has never held a championship in the UFC, despite three attempts to do so in the promotion. Sonnen believes that the only reason that Ortiz had such a dominant reign as the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion is that his level of competition was subpar at best.
“I’ve trained with B.J. Penn,” Sonnen said on The MMA Hour. “He came out to Oregon. Not only did I get my hands on him, but I watched him go with Evan Tanner, Randy Couture, go through the list, and I can tell you, he was as good as the hype. He was said to be the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and he was. But it does go quickly. So, is Tito a lesser guy? I would listen to that argument. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know, but I would listen. The other side of that is, those guys sucked back then. It just was a different deal, man. I mean, people weren’t watching, people weren’t participating. It was just a different deal in terms of, not only the techniques, the training, the coaching, but the level of athlete as well. And you do have some guys from back then who got a really good run, and Tito was the best. There was no one who could beat him, but it just also is a true statement to say that guys were not very good back then.”
Sonnen also talked about the promise he made to his dying father that he would defeat Ortiz if they ever met up inside the cage.
“It came from a good place too. Tito took is as an insult, but he actually heard it wrong,” Sonnen said. “My dad and I were big Tito fans, and at that time, there were only two divisions. You had the light heavyweight division, you had the heavyweight division. There was no other classes, and even the light heavyweight was relatively new. It used to just be openweight. You remember Royce Gracie? It didn’t matter what a guy weighed. I don’t think there even was a weigh-in. So, yeah, Tito was the guy and I was planning to get to him sooner than later. It just took all these years. It took me a long time to get my break. I didn’t get my break until 2005, so that’s just kind of life. I’m sitting here complaining about it, but every fighter listening to this knows what I mean. It’s hard to get into this industry.”
Bellator 170 takes place on Saturday, January 21 from The Forum in Inglewood, California with Chael Sonnen and Tito Ortiz headlining.