Chael Sonnen is one of the greatest talkers in all of sports, let alone mixed martial rrts. His colorful commentary and his opinions have sparked a worldwide phenomenon of attention for the UFC Middleweight division.
But with his words and attitude, are they doing more harm than good?
As such an article will ensue, readers have already formulated their thoughts and comments as to their opinions on this subject. This is purely a look into the man that Sonnen has become and to provoke thought on this presence.
First off, Sonnen, love him or hate him, he must be given his dues.
Sonnen is a fantastic fighter and has been involved with MMA for quite some time. He fought in the UFC before his days in the WEC, later returning to the Octagon again, where he currently resides.
He has proven himself in the cage and shows expertise in wrestling and grinding guys out. He holds them down, beats on them and doesn’t let them get up.
He has fought some of the toughest opponents at 185 pounds, and he gave the first real beating to the current UFC Middleweight Champion, Anderson Silva. In his most recent fight, Sonnen put on an impressive performance against Brian Stann and showed that ring rust was not existent in his game. His dominant performance over Silva during their fight showed to the world that his words could be backed up. But before that fight, his whole character seemed to change.
In his WEC days, Sonnen seemed like he got the short end of the stick. His dealings with Paulo Filho left fans cheering for Sonnen in the rematch; but they were dismayed by Filho’s actions to not make weight. This caused Filho to lose his fans and Sonnen to gain fans.
During these times, Sonnen was a monk compared to what he has become today. Once in title contention in the UFC, Sonnen started going on a tear of bashing his future opponent, Anderson Silva. He made comments regarding Silva’s camp, training partners and even his clothing. He then focused his attention on all of Brazil and the martial art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It seemed he had an opinion and trash talk for everyone, including people who had no previous dealings with him.
This, of course, is a natural progression of an upcoming fight. There is always hype to be made or not, and if they choose to do so, every fighter hypes in their own way. Some stay quiet and let the hype take care of itself, some work harder at it. The lines that have always been drawn, were starting to be crossed, though. With Sonnen’s comments regarding Silva’s camp, they were comical and perfectly normal things to attack (case in point, Jorge Rivera and Michael Bisping). It was his comments toward Brazil that seemed to make people find the Oregon native not so funny.
MMA is full of Brazilian fighters, and some of them are the best in the world. The art of BJJ, injected into MMA by the Gracie family, is a major part of most MMA fighters today. In essence, you can make an argument that BJJ created and helped grow MMA, to the point where it can give guys like Sonnen a career.
As said before, hyping a fight is normal, but is attacking whole countries and their culture too disrespectful?
Prior to his last fight, Sonnen also made comments regarding Silva’s wife. Some found it funny, but many saw it as another line crossed. Typically, bashing a fighter, their camp, their friends and their accomplishments is all fair game and very common. Bringing a fighter’s family into it is a whole different beast.
Every fan has their own views on it, but should set aside the joke for a moment, and look at what he is saying and why.
After his fight with Brian Stann atUFC 136, Joe Rogan approached him in the cage to do the traditional post-fight interview. During this time, Sonnen stated, “Anderson Silva, you absolutely suck! Super Bowl weekend, the biggest rematch in the business. I’m calling you out, but we’re upping the stakes. If I beat you, you leave the division. You beat me, I will leave the UFC forever.”
These words immediately made the MMA universe do a proverbial, “Oh no he didn’t!”
Sonnen’s challenge comes at a price, though. His words incite initial excitement, but mask the after taste of such an act. All too many people found his words to hit too close to home with pro wrestling organizations. Some felt that watching Sonnen talk with Rogan, and Ariel Helwani afterward, was like watching a Vince McMahon scripted publicity stunt.
Wrestling has given MMA some of the most exciting athletes over the years, but we must keep in mind that one organization is entertainment, the other a sport.
Herein lies the issue. With Sonnen issuing a challenge, the shock value inhibits the true repercussions of such action. Hearing “the loser leaves” is a very exciting concept, since any fight is anticipated more when there is more on the line.
Some fans thrive off of bad blood between fighters, others just love title fights. Some just want to see the skills match up, and some support their country’s fighters. Regardless, Sonnen’s challenge immediately puts everything on the table.
The issue with Sonnen’s words is that, if such challenges can be made, does this not pose an issue for the sport as a whole? If every fighter could issue those challenges and the loser would have to leave off of one fight, the UFC and MMA would not be what it is today. Most of everyone’s favorite athletes wouldn’t be around if that were the case. Making someone leave the division or the UFC can be detrimental to the organization as a business as well.
Also, fans must also recognize that either Sonnen or Silva leaving, is not what the sport is all about. Fans must keep in mind that fighting is many of these athlete’s sole career. It is their livelihood and how they support their families and themselves. By making a fighter leave, it can be like asking a worker to quit if they didn’t get a raise.
In the process, you lose the sportsmanship.
But this applies for Sonnen, too. He has stated he is fine with his finances, but leaving the UFC would cost him a great salary. Regardless of whether it’s their main career or not, or if they need the money or not, no one wants to lose any amount of their income. Just look at what’s happening with the NBA. Recently, Sonnen withdrew his ploy to lure Silva into a fight and said he would have to come up with another offer.
Lastly, fans must also be aware of some underlying differences. They can choose to acknowledge them or not but should be aware nonetheless. Sonnen’s comments are often hilarious and extremely clever, but fans should look at what is talk and hype and what is true and honest. With Sonnen, you tend to get a little bit of both, sometimes a mix. What happens for some fans is they believe what he says because he is saying it in an entertaining way. The problem can lie in that fans do not want to be on the victim side of Sonnen’s bashings, so they support what he says.
In other words, it’s wise to be careful not to take on opinions that are not your own, based solely on one guy saying them. This is similar to how WWII was instigated. Sonnen is not like Nazi Germany, but there are similarities in use of propaganda.
It is similar to voting for a politician based solely on what you hear from your parents. You do not wish to support the one they dislike, so you go along with them. This is not always the case with Sonnen or MMA fans, but it certainly happens.
Regardless of his talk, nothing should be taken away from Sonnen and his fighting ability. It is because of his actual skills as an athlete that anyone is paying any attention to him at all. His words of calling it the “biggest rematch in the business” is exactly what the rematch with Silva will be and wouldn’t be true had Sonnen not given Silva his biggest and hardest fight to date.
Is Sonnen a negative impact on MMA? Some say yes, some say no, and some say both. This question can only be answered by each individual fan and cannot be definitively stated, so it is always subjective. Everyone can agree that Silva and Sonnen are two of the top middleweights in the world, and we all anticipate their rematch for different reasons.