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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Chael Sonnen's loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 148 was a result that likely takes Sonnen out of the Title picture for the foreseeable future. He commented following the fight that the drive to be Champion is what should keep any athlete going, and that he doesn't want to be just another fighter on the UFC's roster. Now, one of his coaches feels he may be on the way out after this loss.
Neil Melanson, the head grappling coach at Xtreme Couture, was Sonnen's head trainer in the lead up to UFC 148. He spoke with Brian Hemminger on The Verbal Submission on Sunday night, and expressed doubts as to whether Sonnen would continue fighting after Saturday night's event.
"Any time you're a part of training camp or you're friends with somebody and they lose, you just worry about them like, how are they gonna handle it mentally? Are they gonna come back from this? You know, I don't know what Chael's plans are, but I got a feeling he's done fighting," Melanson said. "I don't know. I've just got a feeling he's done. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think he was serious when he said, 'If you beat me, I will leave forever,' and there's a very good chance of that."
Melanson was referencing Sonnen's call-out of Silva last October, where he took the mic following a win over Brian Stann, saying "Anderson Silva you absolutely suck. I'm calling you out Silva, but we're upping the stakes. I beat you, you leave the division. If you beat me, I will leave the UFC forever."
He later rescinded that offer when it wasn't immediately accepted, but Melanson feels the loss at UFC 148 may be the end for Sonnen all the same.
"I never met anyone that had a scenario where it's like, 'If I don't win this then I'm done,' it never worked out positive for them because, just in my experience, you have to love the grind and if you love the grind, eventually you'll get what you want because you give up what you need to give up," Melanson said. "Apparently Chael had his limit like, 'This is it, I've had enough. If I don't win this then it's all not worth it.'"
"Having lost that, yeah, there's a very good chance he could pursue other things. He's a very smart guy, very well spoken. I know, whether he'll admit to it or not, he has a lot of passion to be a broadcaster of sorts. He seems to excel in any type of speaking arrangement. He loves doing interviews. He loves hyping fights and I'm sure he loves training. He's a good fighter. He's a great fighter and he's an awesome athlete but he can't fight forever and maybe he's at a point he'd like to do something else. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I'm wrong."
Penick's Analysis: Sonnen may decide to walk away from the sport and do something else, but it's not out of the question that he can get to another title fight, even with Silva. Saturday's event will likely be one of the UFC's bigger events ever from a business standpoint, and a lot of that was because of him. If he wins a few more fights, he could be right back into a title fight considering the relative lack of challengers at middleweight. Because of that I think we'll see him again, but if he does decide to leave the sport, he could have a very good second career in broadcasting. When he's being serious and is in analysis mode on the UFC's pre- and post-fight shows, he does a very good job in that role. He could have a role like that for some time with the UFC is he finds himself done with the fighting portion of things.
[Chael Sonnen art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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