Chael Sonnen may be the self-described "bad guy," but he’s got nothing ill to say about Lyoto Machida ahead of their June 14 Bellator main event at Madison Square Garden.
"I don’t want to manufacture any conflict with Machida," Sonnen told reporters at Tuesday’s news conference in midtown Manhattan. "I’ve known him for a number of years. He’s very, very [gentlemanly] to me."
The notoriously verbose Sonnen (31-16-1, 12 KO/Sub) deadpanned that Machida (25-8, 12 KO/Sub) has defeated friends and retired legends Randy Couture and Den Henderson, with Couture losing a tooth when he was knocked out by a spectacular crane kick in his final fight in 2011.
"Maybe that doesn’t upset Randy, but it upsets me," Sonnen said, stone-faced.
The bout between Machida, 40, the former UFC light heavyweight champion and middleweight title challenger, and Sonnen, a 42-year-old previous challenger at both UFC weight classes who reached the semifinals of last year’s Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix, will be contested at 205 pounds.
In the co-headiner, unbeaten welterweight grappling ace Neiman Gracie (9-0, 8 Sub) is scheduled to face the winner of an April 27 championship bout between titleholder Rory MacDonald and Jon Fitch. A member of the famed Gracie family that brought Brazilian jiujitsu to the world stage, he won by second-round submission at Bellator’s first MSG show on June 24, 2017.
Heather Hardy, the Brooklyn native and 22-0 boxing champion, will compete in MMA for the fourth time under the Bellator banner against a yet-to-be-named opponent. The flyweight, who fights out of Gleason’s Gym in DUMBO, took a year off from MMA competition and went 2-0 in championship fights at the Garden and at Barclays Center.
"There’s really nothing like fighting at the Garden," Hardy (2-1, 1 KO) said. "I’ve done it. I won my world title here. I won my Golden Gloves here. I had my MMA debut here, so it’s really special.
"When I heard Bellator was coming back, I had to get on the card. It’s like, ‘I don’t care that I haven’t fought in a year. I have to get on the card.’ It means everything to me to be put out in front of my city and get back in the sport I love."
Also on hand Tuesday were Dillon Danis, a training partner of Conor McGregor, and Max Humphrey, who will face off in a 175-pound catchweight bout between MMA prospects with one and five pro MMA bouts, respectively, on their resumes.