From 2006 until about 2008, BodogFight was formed to be an alternative combat sports program. While Calvin Ayre also focused the promotion on promoting his gambling company, BodogFight did manage to be the home of some stars. From Fedor Emelianenko to Eddie Alvarez, names brought interest into the unique promotion.
Someone who was a member of the promotion, even for just a few fights, was a man who didn’t showcase the gift of gab then that he has shown for 10+ years. Chael Sonnen, The BodogFIght Season One Champion, looked to impress on the beach in Costa Rica. In his way was Tim McKenzie.
On the latest Throwback Throwdown, FIGHT SPORTS opens the vault and reviews Sonnen’s dominant win against McKenzie at BodogFIGHT: Costa Rica Combat in 2007.
Sonnen (31-17-1) was fighting in his 28th fight at the time. He joined Bodog after his first run with the UFC, where he was 1-2 in three fights. “The American Gangster” already beat Tim Credeur and Oleksiy Oliynyk, and still had the competitive drive we’ve known him to have. He stated he fought not because he wanted to, but because he had to. The buildup to the fight did have the same spark we are used to, but Bodog and the Costa Rica environment was perfect for Sonnen.
Mckenzie (14-9) was making his BodogFight debut following stints in the WEC and IFC. His 14th pro fight, McKenzie was on a two-fight win streak before he faced Sonnen. One of the most entertaining quotes from before the bout included McKenzie stating he “cashes checks and break necks.”
The (Literal) Hook
This might be the shortest review in Throwback Throwdown history. Sonnen went for the shoot in order to take the legs down. Already stunning McKenzie, Sonnen, tripped McKenzie down and locked in the D’arce choke, the first of his career, for the quick tap at 13 seconds.
McKenzie went on to say that he hurt himself during the initial fall and didn’t realize the submission was fully in. Sonnen received approval from the Gracie family following the win.
In the post-match interview, Sonnen went on to say:
“I’m just going to keep working hard, and keep competing, and win or lose I’m going out there to do my best.”
The Post-Match Breakdown
Sonnen ended up fighting one more time for BodogFight, beating Amar Suloev via TKO. He then went to WEC, where he went 2-1 before returning to the UFC. While he lost his first fight back against Demian Maia at UFC 95, Sonnen rebounded by winning three in a row. He ended up competing in a Fight of the Year winner against Anderson Silva at UFC 117, a fight that helped put him on the map. This was the Chael we know now; animated and full of confidence.
Sonnen would then fight Silva again, before moving back to Light Heavyweight to face Jon Jones. While he lost both title fights, Sonnen always made things interesting. He beat Shogun Rua before losing to Rashad Evans in his final UFC appearance. Sonnen then went 2-3 in Bellator, facing a Murders’ Row of fellow legends; Tito Ortiz, Wanderlei Silva, Quinton Jackson, Fedor and Lyoto Machida. Following a loss to the latter, Sonnen, who was already doing commentary duties for Bellator and ESPN, announced his in-ring retirement.
McKenzie won a rebound fight against Yuichi Nakanishi via submission before going back to WEC. He ended up in one fight with the UFC, losing to Aaron Simpson via TKO in 2009. “Wrecking Machine” ended up 2-3, and hasn’t fought since 2011.
As for BodogFight, MMAFighting were the first to report that the company ceased operations after Ayre left it behind to focus on his original gambling empire.
It wasn’t the longest fight, but it was the most dominant one of Sonnen’s career. The time in BodogFight felt like a journey for Sonnen, as he ascended his way up the mountain one step at a time. Given a chance to shine, Sonnen made the most of his opportunity, and then some.
As for Bodog, the question “What If?” still lingers on. With exciting fighters and fights, one can only imagine, if given a true chance, just how well it could do when shown to a massive audience.