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Sonnen (30-16-1 MMA, 2-2 BMMA) and Machida (25-8 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) have both pegged their Friday night matchup as a title eliminator. Bader (27-5 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) is the reigning champion at 205 pounds, in addition to holding the heavyweight crown, and barring anything unforeseen a matchup with the Bellator 222 winner seemingly makes sense.
The problem, however, is that Sonnen isn’t all that eager. He and Bader have history dating back to their amateur wrestling days, and while Sonnen wants the belt, he said there’s a legitimate inner conflict about whether he wants to give Bader any additional rub by doing the fight.
“This is said to be the No. 1 contender’s fight, but it puts me in a really weird spot,” Sonnen told MMA Junkie at Wednesday’s Bellator 222 media day. “Generally you would be chasing the champion. That is the general rule of the business; that is the general rule in life. Ryan Bader sucks. Ryan Bader can’t draw. People don’t know who Ryan Bader is. Ryan Bader, as a champion, has to beg me to come in and fight.
“The roles are totally reversed. He’s got to beg me to be the No. 1 contender. I don’t like Ryan Bader. I’ve got a history with Ryan Bader. I want to be champion. I don’t know if I want to do Ryan Bader that favor.”
Sonnen said he’ll have a difficult decision if he beats Machida and is offered a title shot. However, Sonnen said he’s making his feelings on the situation well known as to give Bader another opportunity to put together a convincing argument. But in Sonnen’s mind, the champ is running out of time.
“I’ve given him the opportunity to win me over,” Sonnen said. “I’ve never felt he called me out the right way, he never affected my ego, and I never felt he shined up my wheels enough to make me come and do something for him. I think he’s playing his cards wrong. I think he needs to be a little nicer to old Chael, quite frankly. Or he needs to be a little bit meaner to old Chael.
“But he seems to be sitting on the middle of the road, which is why in his meager little career a fight with me would be five times anything he’s done before. So, until I like Ryan Bader a little bit more, which I don’t see happening, I’m not giving him the opportunity to fight me, even though he’s champion.”
Bellator 222 takes place at Madison Square Garden. Sonnen vs. Machida co-headlines the main card, which streams on DAZN following prelims on MMA Junkie.
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