UFC President Dana White has repeatedly stated that current UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva is the best fighter in the world. If so, one has to wonder where Chael Sonnen fits into that equation.
Last August the stellar UFC contender dominated Silva for four-and-half rounds before being caught in a triangle choke in MMA's version of a 'Hail Mary' pass.
With the clock winding down, Sonnen, as he had done the previous four rounds, was in Silva's guard punishing him with a barrage of punches. Silva seemed to have no answer for Sonnen's high-level wrestling and was unable to get off of his back seemingly the entire fight. But just as Sonnen seemed poised to ride the jiu-jitsu black-belt to victory, Silva slapped on a triangle choke catching Sonnen off guard. He was forced to tap half-way through the fight's final frame after winning every round according to the three judges scoring at ringside.
Some have called the fight and its climatic finish, the best championship contest in UFC history. Sonnen, for his part, believes the fight proved that he, not Silva, is the real champion.
"I should be the reigning champion," Sonnen told MMA Fight Corner presented by FiveKnuckles.com. "I punch a guy 300 times, he punches me a couple and they call him the champion? In what parallel universe does that make you the winner? I am the champion. I've been the champion."
What Sonnen has also been this past year, is steeped in controversy and missing in action. The former All-American wrestler hasn't fought since last August after issues with both the Nevada State Athletic Commission and the California State Athletic Commission.
Then there was the money laundering charge and mortgage fraud rumors levied against Sonnen, who, at the time, was running for political office in Oregon.
"Well there was no mortgage fraud," Sonnen explained. "I've heard that term thrown around a bit and I was never involved in anything like that. The charge they hit me with was money laundering. I couldn't tell you to this moment in time what money laundering even means. But look, when you're in the public eye, and I was I was a candidate and I was elected, everything changes. And if you upset somebody that has more power than you do, a lot of times they'll use that power. What they brought me in for, and the fact that they went back an entire decade to find something in a file, was a tough pill to swallow.
While typically outspoken and brazen in his demeanor, Sonnen explains why he ultimately decided to plead guilty to money laundering.
"I want to be careful with my words," Sonnen said. "I don't know whose listening and I certainly don't want to re-upset them. But at the end of the day when you deal with the government you've got two options, guilty or not guilty. There's no in between. It doesn't come down to if you did it or no. It comes down to that they've got to convince twelve people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty to see it in my favor. That's a risk I wasn't willing to take. So again, you've got two options, and of the options that's the one I elected to do and I'll live with that decision."
The decision allowed Sonnen to return to his life instead of battling in court, but the reality is that when the former number one middleweight contender returns to the cage over a year will...