During an interview with the LA Times, Sonnen was asked how he can have so many losses and still be a title contender. His answer outlined a stark contrast between boxing and MMA.
“If I was a bully or a coward, I could’ve been undefeated,” Sonnen explained. “I fought the No. 1 guy in the world six times. I’ve fought 14 guys in the top 10, and beat 12 of them. If you want to take an easy path, you can. They do that in boxing, which is a phony sport, because they keep the best guys away from each other. I’m not a bully who picks on people I know I can beat, like Anderson [Silva] has done.”
Sonnen is 27-11-1, which would be pretty bad if he were in boxing. In MMA, he’s a title contender and one of the best middleweights. Part of the reason is because he’s improved over time. From 2003-2004, he lost six fights, but he’s gone 15-5 since.
But he also hit on the big difference between boxing and fighting in the UFC.
In boxing, promoters set fighters up against weak competition to build their record. A fighter who’s lost more than twice in his first 25 bouts isn’t worth much. And then you get guys like Floyd Mayweather who maintain a perfect record and then avoid the best competition in order to preserve it. Boxing records really are phony in that regard.
In the UFC, Dana White is the matchmaker and constantly pits the best fighters against each other. He operates it as a challenge ladder system where fighters most closely ranked face each other, and the loser moves up in rankings. Once you’re at the top, you’re constantly facing a round robin of the best competition. It’s like tennis tournaments where only Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and David Ferrer and some of the other top players face each other each week without facing the inferior competiont. Of course those guys would be losing more frequently because they’d only be playing the best players.
The only way to make it through that type of gauntlet undefeated is to be an absolute master like Anderson Silva, or to be overmatched against your competition like Jon Jones (who needs to move up to heavyweight).