As Bellator 234: Kharitonov vs Vassell gets ready to go in the city of Tel-Aviv, Israel, there have been some minor developments in another popular fighting field – war – that threaten to collide with the scheduled MMA event. Hundreds of rockets and missiles were launched from Gaza this week by the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization – the bulk of them landing a few dozen miles south of the location – with a few actually reaching Tel-Aviv on Wednesday. Without going into who fired at whom first, in the middle-east, on an MMA website; this flare-up has followed two years of gradual escalation involving all sides—Israel, and the various factions in Gaza. Closer to the Gaza border, a mass event such as Bellator’s would be cancelled by local authorities (on account of the current metallic rain) but the Jihad – perhaps MMA fans – so far seem to be largely leaving Tel-Aviv alone, for this round.
Chael Sonnen, recently retired from professional fighting, is now at the Sheraton Tel-Aviv hotel, in the glass-walled lobby floor overlooking the Mediterranean. The ceremonial weigh-ins for the Kharitonov vs Vassell event have just wrapped up in the conference room below, with Sonnen taking a small part in it—as a teammate for Austin Vanderford, and on promotional duties for the Bellator organization. Bellator is not new to Israel – mid-November in Tel-Aviv is becoming a tradition for them – but it is Chael Sonnen’s and his wife Britanny Smith first time in the state.
In your fighting days you famously fought some killers. Who was the most awesome killer among them, you think, Anderson?
Mmm, no, maybe. I’ve fought Georges St. Pierre in a basement, in California, 2014. That was the best fighter I’ve ever taken on. It’s a long story, but Kenny Florian set up the workout. And he said, ‘Hey, Georges is in town, do you want to work out tonight?’. And I said ‘Yes.’ But, I didn’t know he meant GSP—everybody calls GSP, GSP. Kenny sent me a text that said ‘Georges is in town’.
Anyway, that was it. I showed up at the basement and there is St. Pierre. And I do remember leaving that day and thinking, ‘You know, that guy is special. That guy is different than other people.’ And he had that strength, like that remarkable strength. And I never heard his opponents talk about that. I never heard his opponents talk about how strong he was, which surprised me, because it was… remarkable. Very strong man.
And as nice as he is strong.
Yeah, I would agree with that.