Middleweight Chael Sonnen wins at UFC 109, now looks to win Oregon state seat as politician

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LAS VEGAS - Chael Sonnen doesn't plan any door-to-door campaigning for a month or so in his run for a seat in the Oregon house of representatives.
And that's good, because the 32-year-old mixed martial arts fighter from West Linn, Ore., might scare the voters after his upset win over middleweight Nate (The Great) Marquardt at UFC 109 on Saturday night.
Sonnen dominated en route to a unanimous 30-27 decision in the co-main event before 10,687 at a sold out Mandalay Bay Events Center, earning a middleweight title shot in the process. But Sonnen paid a price for the win.
After the fight, Sonnen looked like he had been in a car crash. An ugly slash of stitches curved down his forehead, courtesy of a Marquardt elbow. There were more stitches on the bridge of his nose and blood in his mouth from a cut on the inside of his lip.
"I have never felt so bad in my life," the winner said. "I've been rear-ended in traffic, I've had bumps and bruises from sports, from gymnastics to wrestling. I've never felt this bad ever.
"Both feet hurt, both knees hurt, both elbows hurt, both hands hurt. Let's see, my sternum's killing me, my head's bleeding, my nose got stitched. The inside of my mouth is cut. I feel horrible."
Sonnen didn't know how many stitches he got, "but I was in there a while."
"I haven't even got to a mirror yet to see how bad I look," he added.
Here's hoping he waits a while.
Sonnen (26-10-1) is no ordinary fighter. He combines fighting with a full-time job as a realtor and now wants to add elected official to his resume (www.votesonnen.com).
He was recruited by the Republicans to run for the state house of representatives as a Republican in District 37. The primary election is in May with the general election in November.
The seat is currently held by Republican Scott Brunn, who is moving on in a bid to get elected to the U.S. house of representatives.
Sonnen's current priority is fundraising. He reckons his campaign budget will be some US$400,000 with UFC president Dana White and co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta already making donations.
"I'm not going to be going door-to-door for about another month," he said. "But when that starts, I'm going to be going door-to-door every day. When my feet get tired, I'm going to go home and be on the telephone asking for support."
Ironically, Sonnen says any rise in his profile as a fighter probably hinders his political chances.
"Being a meathead isn't something that people want in their government officials is my guess. ... I can reverse that but I've got to get out there, I've got to meet the people, let them meet me, explain why I'm running. Explain what brought me to this decision and leave fighting as far behind me as I can and try to shift that in their head and let them see these are two separate things. I'm not a meathead but I do compete (as a fighter) three times a year."
Sonnen has already served as an elected precinct member in Oregon's District 22, which he called a very introductory position. "It's similar to the (state) house of representatives but on a smaller scale."
He also ran for the state house in District 22 in 2004, taking 43 per cent of the vote in a losing cause against a 20-year incumbent.
"I had no experience, no money, no campaign team but I worked really hard," he said.
Oregon is traditionally Liberal but parts of the area where Sonnen is running are more conservative, according to Matt Lindland, a fellow fighter and Republican who was unsuccessful in his own recent run for an Oregon seat.
Sonnen's first name was chosen by his mother because it's the last five letters from Michael. It's pronounced Chale.
"And if you were to ask my mother how to enunciate it, she'd say it's like cheese and jail."
Sonnen used his superior wrestling skills to defeat Marquardt, who came into the fight a 5-1 favourite. And once Sonnen got Marquardt down, he kept him there - negating most of Marquardt's extensive arsenal.
Sonnen, a former NCAA wrestling champion and U.S. Olympic team alternate, went on the attack from the get-go. He took Marquardt down early and hurt him with elbows and punches. It was more of the same in the second when Sonnen, taking a Marquardt elbow from the bottom, suffered the ugly gash on the forehead.
"I was scared that was going to stop the fight," Sonnen said later.
Sonnen escaped a tight guillotine choke late in the third round.
"It was a miserable experience," Sonnen said when asked about the choke. "As was that entire fight. I'm so happy it's over."
Marquardt finished the fight on top, but it was too little too late.
Sonnen (26-10-1) made US$124,000 including a $32,000 win bonus and $60,000 for fight of the night. Marquardt (32-9-2) earned $105,000, including the fight of the night bonus.
Despite a career that extends back to 2002, Sonnen has operated under the radar for some.
"I've never been knocked out, I've never been TKO'd, I've never lost a judges' decision," Sonnen said. "Every fight I've ever lost has been by submission. Every fight I've ever lost has been in the second round. And every fight I've ever lost I was ahead on every judge's scorecard, with the exception of Demian Maia. He put me away in the first round (at UFC 95). And that's it.
"I've only lost one middleweight fight in my entire life and that was to Maia. Every loss I've ever had has been from heavyweight to 205 (pounds) to a catchweight. I've never been beat at this weight class, again with the exception of Maia.
"I've beat four world champions and I beat a King of Pancrase (a Japanese organization) tonight. So when you ask me was I being overlooked, I want to really remain humble because this is a time to be humble not to be arrogant. But I think you ask a fair question and I think a fair response from me is to say 'yeah."'
The cerebral Sonnen isn't afraid to speak his mind, whether it is on fellow fighters or politics. And he already has a deft touch.
Asked about the current health care debate in the U.S., he noted it was a federal bill rather than a state issue "so I'm going to be a politician and dance around your question a little bit." But he added that his party has yet to come up with a better idea.
Sonnen came into the Marquardt fight with an impressive win over Yushin Okami at UFC 104. He also turned heads at UFC 98 when he dropped 36.2 pounds in 21 days before beating Dan Miller after being summoned as a late injury replacement.
Sonnen will face the winner of the UFC 112 bout in April between 185-pound title-holder Anderson Silva and Vitor (The Phenom) Belfort.
Sonnen said he hopes Silva wins because he sees Belfort as a "lot tougher fighter."
"If I had to choose between the two, I'm going to take the low road and take the easier opponent to get to the championship," he said bluntly.
In the main event Saturday, Randy (The Natural) Couture defeated Mark (The Hammer) Coleman via second-round submission in a battle of UFC Hall of Famers.
Coleman (16-10) was never really in a light-heavyweight bout dominated by Couture (18-10), who lived up to his entrance music - Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold."
"He's one of the best light-heavyweights in the world, period," White said of Couture. "He proved it again tonight."
White, meanwhile, said it was probably Coleman's last fight in the UFC.
"I just think he'll have a hard time competing with the guys at the top of the level. Age is a factor with him."
Coleman, 45, was the UFC's first heavyweight champion. Couture, 46, is a five-time title-holder who has ruled both the heavyweight and light-heavyweight divisions.
Edmonton heavyweight Tim (The Thrashing Machine) Hague came on strong in the third round but lost a majority decision to Chris (The Crowbar) Tuchscherer.

Organizations: Oregon house, Mandalay Bay Events Center, Republicans U.S. house NCAA

Geographic location: Oregon, LAS VEGAS, West Linn, Ore. U.S. Belfort Edmonton

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