Chael SonnenYou hear the phrase in youth sports across the country, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,” or a variation of the statement.  The message is told to children by their parents, coaches and teachers.  As we get older, the message gets cast aside and winning becomes the primary concern.

But that is not the case with everyone.  To some, the lesson is about work ethic, giving it your all even when your all isn’t enough.

UFC contender Chael Sonnen’s approach to fighting arose from that early childhood lesson.

“It’s a two-man sport and you don’t know who is going to win.  We can’t control who is going to win.  You can only control how you compete,” Sonnen recently told

No one wants to lose, but defeat is always a possibility in competition.  One person wins and one loses.  It is often said you learn more from your losses than your wins, but underperforming on the main stage will haunt an athlete, sometimes forever.

“As an athlete, you’ll never feel bad about losing, but what you will feel bad about is underperforming,” said Sonnen.  “That’s a real thing and it happens a lot when we don’t live up to our potential.  And that keeps you up at night and can give you years and years of regret.

“It could be a relationship, it could be a homework assignment, or it could be an athletic competition.  If you don’t go out and perform to the best of your ability, it will really bother you,” added the 36-year-old fighter.

Sonnen believes sometimes athletes are so focused on the outcome that it hinders their performance.

“But the wins and losses, one guy is going to get his hand raised.  That’s fine. But a lot of times we’ll worry about the outcome and spend so much time thinking, ‘I have to win, I have to win,’ that we don’t perform,” he said.

Sonnen defeated former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in his last outing by submission in the first round.  He takes on another former titleholder, Rashad Evans, at UFC 167 on Nov. 16 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

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