I liked Chael Sonnen before hating Chael Sonnen was cool. The first time he stood out to me was his run in WEC. He wasn’t unknown, as he’d fought in the UFC and been around for years prior, but something about his WEC push got to me. He would win – or lose – and then give an interview. It wasn’t the over the top style we are used to today from Chael; it was a bit more subdued but there were hints of more. He had a charisma that I’m not sure even he was aware of.
Then everyone saw him in his lead up to the first Anderson Silva fight, cutting one biting promo after another, drumming up all kinds of interest, and making both he and Silva a star in the process. From there, Sonnen’s mouth overshadowed his talent. Which was too bad, because he beat the shit out of some really good fighters: Miller, Marquardt, Stann, Filho, Bisping, and so on. But his rants and such about Silva and Brazil got all the attention – as they were supposed to. Good for him.
Yes, Sonnen got busted as a steroid cheat but even then, in conjunction with the NSAC’s desire to be the single stupidest fucking organization on earth – he took a negative and turned it into a positive. What came of his positive test for cheating? Why, a job offer from NSAC! The UFC let him go from an analyst position but shortly thereafter ESPN picked him up. Hey, good for him, he was making money!
But now … I’m bored of it all. He seems to be inventing news and theories just for attention. He’ll say he’s facing Josh Barnett in a grappling match only for everyone else to kind of wonder where the hell he got that from. “We’re owed an explanation for Nick Diaz” “Fedor is overrated” he said the other day – welcome to the party, we’re all in the middle of dessert. And randomly says that Conor McGregor should debate him – I guess – on TV so Conor can learn who the true trash talker is. Uh, ok.
He goes out and gives Jon Jones advice that is tantamount to: embrace your scandal and be the ultimate bad guy without appreciating that this isn’t some minor scandal. Jones didn’t say something rude about Brazilians. The man has a DUI, fleeing the scene of a crime, is a known drug user, and shows every indication that he’s going to flame out – soon. I hope not, I want to see the best Jones who ever lived but I can’t shake the feeling that he’s a slow motion car crash in front of our eyes. If I thought Jones could channel all this for money, and secretly be smart and whatnot, I’d be on board with everything Sonnen is saying. I don’t. And I’m not sure Sonnen knows either.
Therein lies the rub: If Sonnen can’t distinguish between legitimate opportunities to make money and actual real life where someone’s future is at stake and all that lies is ruin and poverty then everything Chael ever did is a lie. He wasn’t just making money in the run-up to the Silva fights, he was being an actual racist. It’s only a “work” – a con – if you yourself also know it’s a con. Everything Sonnen has said lately either tells me he doesn’t know it’s a con or if he does he’s only interested in keeping himself in the spotlight.
And I’m guessing it’s the latter. He can’t be that dumb (despite almost going to jail for financial … issues). And if so, that means when he speaks, he doesn’t care what he says, so long as you pay attention to HIM saying it. And, again, sure, that’s his gimmick now but you have to have some substance there too, which is too bad because there are times, when he drops the shtick, that Sonnen is fantastic. No, not him on WSOF. That was terrible. That was a guy trying to sound like an announcer not actually being one (maybe he’ll get better with practice). But moments on TUF when he coached, or when he’s speaking in a less formal setting, he clearly has a great deal to share.
But he doesn’t. And that makes him the Skip Bayless of MMA. He says something about Holly Holm’s boxing record and how he has never met a single female boxer. Ever. Just more near sexist, or actually sexist, mutterings. He goes for the headline so we never forget who he is but in doing so we’ll all forget what he was: a damn good fighter.