Oban Elliott explains Chael Sonnen’s influence on career ahead of UFC 298 debut, gets special message from Sonnen

Oban Elliott is about to have the greatest weekend of his young life.

On Saturday, Elliott makes his UFC debut, taking on Val Woodburn on the prelim card of UFC 298. Only 26 years old and with a 9-2 record amassed primarily in Cage Warriors, “The Welsh Gangster” earned his spot in the promotion with a win on the most recent season of the UFC’s Contender Series, and in so doing, achieved one of his life’s great ambitions.

“It’s been this dream since — I saw Brock Lesnar in 2009 when he was in the UFC — since literally I was a little kid,” Elliott said this week on The MMA Hour. “My dad had a video tape of UFC 40, Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock. I think it was UFC Vendetta. So I saw that — Chuck Liddell, that was the day he knocked out Babalu. I’ve been a fan of this game, this company, this sport, for a very long time. For a majority of my life.

“And when I saw old uncle Chael [Sonnen], who you tipped your hat to, when I saw him feuding with Anderson [Silva], when he got on the mic when he beat Brian Stann, I just thought — I’m this massive wrestling fan, WWE fan, growing up as a kid, and then you’ve got this guy who is like a wrestler. I was like, ‘That’s me. That’s me there. That guy on the TV. That’s what I’ve got to be.’ I didn’t know how I was going to get here at the time, but I told all my teachers in school, I told all my friends, ‘I will be in the UFC one day and I’ll be chasing that belt.’ And here I am! Look at me now.

“I’m absolutely over the moon to be here. This is my lifelong dream. I’ll tell you where it really did get deep. It’s documented I’ve lost my dad. … Me taking that belt and putting it by his grave, that was the only way in my head, as a young kid, where I felt like I could, obviously not fill that void, but try to fill it. That was the only thing that got me through that from a young age. And here I am. It’s f****** mad.”

That event, Elliott explained, was another thing that drew him to Sonnen. Sonnen also lost his father at an early age and made a promise before he passed that he would beat Tito Ortiz and become world champion. Elliott could not help but see himself in Sonnen.

“This guy is a hero,” Elliott said. “He said, ‘My father died and it was my promise to him to get the world championship.’ I don’t care what you say, he’s bigger than a world champion. He was a world champion. He won that title when he beat Paulo Filho, but he’s become bigger. A world champion could walk past you on the street, but Chael Sonnen walks past you and the street will stop. That’s worth more than any belt could ever mean.”

“He fulfilled his promise and I’m just about to completely fulfill mine. It’s mad.”

Even more mad is that now Elliott has managed to grab Sonnen’s attention. “The Welsh Gangster” also talked through his early attempts to reach out to his American counterpart, and how Sonnen encouraged him early in his career.

“I just said, ‘Chael, I’m going to make it in the UFC one day.’” Elliott said. “I loved Anderson, but, ‘Please beat Anderson. We’re all cheering for you.’ God knows how many times I must’ve messaged him, tweeted to him, and he never got it, never got back. But then one day I checked it, March 2012, in the run-up to the [Silva] rematch, he said, ‘Good man. Chase your dreams.’ I didn’t hear from him then until 2021, and I said, ‘Uncle Chael, I’m chasing my dreams.’ And he said, ‘I know you are, I’m watching each step that you take.’ That was pinned on my Twitter. Mad, isn’t it?

“I’ve never met him, and God only knows what that’s going to feel like when I get to shake that man’s hand. Insane.”

It turns out that’s going to happen this weekend. In advance of Elliott’s appearance on The MMA Hour, Sonnen recorded a message for the UFC debutant that was played for Elliott.

“My ace! Congratulations!” Sonnen said. “Making it this far, as I’ve told you many times, has been no surprise. But what you might not know is I will be there live, cheering you on, from one gangster to another. You’ve made all of us very proud making it this far, but the journey just began. Let’s get the win this weekend, stud. Good luck!”

As you can imagine, Elliott was thrilled with this turn of events, and promised a successful debut on Saturday.

“Oh my God, he’s going to be there,” Elliott said. “Wow! My God. I can’t put into words how how you have just made me feel. Thank you. Chael, thank you. That’s unbelievable. I’m speechless. Thank you so much for getting that across. And I will get the job done. And it’s a perfect time to quote the man himself: No matter how I’m feeling, happy, sad, scared, fear — not one of those is going to get a judge to mark my name. This is what will mark my name [raises fists]. And I’ll make sure I get it done, 100 percent.”

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