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Trash talk not part of Sonnen’s return to UFC

In the multilayered and often bizarre mind of Chael Sonnen, he already holds the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight title.

Sonnen, who often blurs the line between hype and delusion, refers to himself as the champion and seems to believe it despite the fact he lost a title bout to longtime champ Anderson Silva the last time he stepped into the cage, in August 2010.

Sonnen dominated Silva for about 22 minutes that night before the legitimate champion turned the tables and locked in a triangle choke to force a submission and retain the belt, with time ticking down in the fifth and final round.

The 14 months since have been filled with trials and tribulations for Sonnen, who returns to action Saturday to make what he calls the first defense of his middleweight title against Brian Stann at UFC 136 in Houston.

Sonnen probably will get another shot at Silva should he defeat Stann. He insists he would walk out of the rematch with the belt around his waist.

“If you’re asking if I would ever concede that Anderson’s better than me, no,” Sonnen said. “I would simply refer you to the tape. I think that (our) skills are vastly different. I think that I could come down a lot and still be ahead of him.”

It’s that type of trash-talking in which Sonnen relentlessly participated before the two fought last year. While he has been extremely respectful of Stann, a former Navy football player and battlefield hero, Sonnen’s tumultuous year apparently did little to dampen his feelings for Silva. In fact, he told a reporter this week he would kick down Silva’s door, pat his wife on the behind and tell her to cook him a steak.

Sonnen, 34, has had plenty of time to think of more verbal jabs in his time away from the cage. After the Silva fight, he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone and had his license to fight revoked. He then was set to coach the current season of “The Ultimate Fighter” but was unable to get licensed to do so in the state of Nevada.

Sonnen also pleaded guilty in January to money laundering charges stemming from a fraudulent real estate deal in Oregon. He was sentenced to two years’ probation and fined $10,000 in addition to losing his real estate license. He had to abandon a bid for political office in 2010 when the criminal charge came to light.

“I got put in timeout for a while,” Sonnen said. “I’m glad that that’s all over and behind me.”

Those waiting for him to turn his poison tongue on Stann have been disappointed by Sonnen’s unwillingness to take shots at the popular former Marine.

Sonnen said it’s not easy to be pitted against the squeaky-clean Stann, who has finished all three of his opponents since dropping down to middleweight.

“Nobody wants to fight Brian, but somebody’s got to,” Sonnen said. “Our paths have to cross. We’re just in the same weight class. It’s not that big of a pool, and he keeps whipping everybody. If he quit beating everybody, then I wouldn’t have to fight him. But he decided to go out and become one of the top guys.”

Stann said he didn’t expect to hear the same kind of trash talk that was lobbed at Silva.

“I told everybody from the start that I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Stann said. “I believe that Chael is very genuine when he says that if he has a problem with somebody, he will speak it; if he doesn’t have a problem with somebody, he won’t.”

Which means if Sonnen gets through this fight and gets his rematch with Silva, he no doubt will have plenty to say.

While Sonnen lays claim to a mythical belt, two true title bouts share top billing on the card.

Frankie Edgar will defend his lightweight title against Las Vegan Gray Maynard, and featherweight champion Jose Aldo puts his belt on the line against Kenny Florian.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.

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