Opinion: The Presence of Chael Sonnen
By Jesse Heitz
We’re just a few days away from UFC on Fox Sports 1: Shogun vs. Sonnen, probably better known as UFC Fight Night 26. While many fans are looking forward to the possible resurgence of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, as well as a plethora of other significant fights, we can’t help but notice Chael Sonnen creep into our pre-fight consciousness.
In a recent interview conducted and published by Sports Illustrated, MMA’s preeminent chatterbox had a lot to say, some of his top remarks his future in the sport are posted below,
“I’m not going to be one of the guys that hang around. If there’s not a road to the title, then this sport isn’t for me. I believe that was probably my last opportunity.”
“You have to win your fights, because it always comes down to wins and losses.”
“Here’s what you have to understand: The landscape changes so incredibly quickly that you have to be flexible. Opportunities open up all the time. I’m a reactor, in large part. I can do my part to manipulate or guide my own career, but like everyone else, I mostly am left to react to situations. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Perhaps in typical Sonnen fashion, he exerted significant effort to bait a large swath of MMA fans by sullying the names of two of the sport’s most well-respected legends in Wanderlei Silva and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. Ostensibly, his goal is to at some point turn his one-sided fight hyping efforts into a possible lucrative payday.
“I would want to fight the smallest guy with the worst record in the largest venue for the biggest paycheck.”
“No, I know who it is. The worst guy under contract with the UFC is clearly Wanderlei. Wanderlei Silva, there’s your answer.”
“I know what you’re thinking,” he said. “You’re thinking, ‘What about CroCop?’ And you’re right: CroCop was terrible. But I would probably fight Wanderlei.”
Sonnen is quite the showman, and an unabashed self-promoter, to such an extent that it borders on the shameless. There’s no mistaking that Sonnen is a bona fide entertainer. He can easily be named as the best talker in the sport, better than most color commentators even, save the great Bas Rutten. He’s the Howard Stern of MMA in terms of his promo cutting ability. This is not at all to say that he’s the best in the world at his particular craft, which is actually fighting, because he’s not.
I have to believe that many times even Chael Sonnen can’t find a shred of truth or credibility in his own diatribes. Let’s be clear, the careers of Mirko Filipovic, Wanderlei Silva, and Chael Sonnen, do not draw comparable parallels. The first two dominated their sport for years. They stood nose-to-nose with, and battled the greatest fighters in the world. They will undoubtedly go down in MMA history as two of the greatest fighters to have ever laced up a pair of gloves. Chael Sonnen, despite his exceptional gifts in microphone work, is merely an above average fighter.
With Sonnen bringing up the need to win fights to stay relevant, it’s worth pointing out that he’s 2-3 in his last five bouts. Just to provide some perspective, Wanderlei is 3-2, and Filipovic matches Sonnen’s mark of 2-3, although during his retirement he did capture a K-1 World Grand Prix Title. So, this begs the question, if Sonnen wins his upcoming fight will he be rewarded with another title shot so that he can be crushed yet again? If he loses, will he hang it up and call it a career, or will he chase a few more big paydays? I suppose we’ll know soon enough.