Chael Sonnen, a notable name in the world of MMA, has recently voiced his opinion on the greatest middleweight to ever compete in the UFC, and believes that Israel Adesanya holds that title. Adesanya has a 13-1 record in the UFC’s 185-pound division and is a two-time UFC champion who has held his belt five times in a row during his first title reign.
Chael Sonnen recaptured his middleweight title at UFC 287 by knocking out Alex Pereira in the second round, getting his revenge over the person who’d previously beaten him in three consecutive contests across MMA and kickboxing. Although Anderson Silva is also known as one of the greats in the middleweight division, Sonnen still places Adesanya higher in the historical rankings.
Silva’s perfect 16-0 octagon record with a slew of highlight-reel finishes across two divisions and 10 consecutive title defenses, the latter of which is second only to Demetrious Johnson’s 11 successful defenses of his UFC flyweight belt from 2012-17, makes him a worthy contender.
Adesanya’s head-to-head victory over Silva in 2019’s UFC 234, where a 29-year-old Adesanya defeated a 43-year-old Silva via unanimous decision, places him above the longtime UFC champion in Sonnen’s eyes.
Sonnen believes that head-to-head matchups are critical in determining greatness, and he defends his position by pointing out what Adesanya was up against when he fought Silva. Adesanya had to face his idol, a fighter whom he idolized during his early days in combat sports.
“It’s a really hard spot to be in Adesanya’s position,” Sonnen said. “It’s really hard when you’re fighting your idol. Right? And Adesanya was 16 years old when I had my business with Anderson. He was a 16-year-old skinny kid from New Zealand, and he kept tweeting. I kept seeing his tweets and he was taking Anderson’s side. He didn’t like me and he didn’t like the mouth.
It was one of these things — 16 [years old] — and all these years later, you’re standing across from the guy that you looked up to, that got you into the sport, his poster is on your wall. There’s a lot against Izzy in that fight too, not just Father Time that was against Anderson.