Chael Sonnen (28-14-1) has been exactly where he wants to be as of late.
The center of attention.
It all started with the heated rivalry between the two coaches of the latest TUF Brazil, Sonnen and Pride legend, Wanderlei Silva, who allegedly ran from a drug test and exited himself from the showdown at UFC 175.
Chael called Silva out on his act of “cowardice” when in hindsight he should’ve followed suit.
Vitor Belfort was chosen as Wand’s replacement and as the story goes, Sonnen failed his drug test and was removed from the bout and 24 hours later he retired from the sport.
However the 4 time Zuffa number 1 contender shouldn’t be remembered as the guy that failed a drug test. he should be remembered as the best self promoting, trash talking, fight selling badass that provided in-ring performances that cashed the checks that his mouth wrote.
Sonnen claimed ameteaur All-American Honors in wrestling in 1998 and placed 1st in 1999 and 2000 in The Greco-Roman Championships in his tenure as a quack attacker at the University of Oregon.
Chael went on to dawn the stars and stripes in the Men’s Greco Roman Wrestling World University Championships and received a silver medal for his performance.
Then Sonnen embarked as a new hope in MMA.
He reeled off six straight victories, including a unanimous decision victory over equally outspoken former TUF coach and host of MTV’s Bully Beatdown, Jason “Mayhem” Miller. Chael even struck gold for the first time in his career by defeating Scott Shipman for the Danger Zone Light Heavyweight Title.
Chael then received his first 2 losses of his career against current King of the Cage Light Heavyweight Champion, Trevor Prangley and former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and TUF Coach, Forrest Griffin.
But like Dwight Howard, Chael rebounded.
Winning his next 5, and winning another title for the second (and last, sadly) time in his MMA career, by punishing “The Punisher” and former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion Jason Lambert at a Gladiator Fighting Challenge event.
Then Chael went 3-4 but was invited to his first UFC bout at the 55th installment, losing to former 205 pound number 1 contender, Renato “Babalu” Sobral by triangle choke in the 2nd round.
A maneuver that would continue to haunt his UFC career.
Sonnen won his encore fight by avenging his earlier loss to Trevor Prangley, and received a unanimous decision nod at UFN 4, but lost to another former UFC Light Heavyweight number 1 contender, Jeremy Horn via arm-bar at UFC 60.
Following the loss Chael was released from his contract with Zuffa.
Much like the average Kardashian marriage…
It only lasted a year.
In that year Sonnen solidified himself as the top dog, in BoDog, going 4-0 in the promotion. He ousted former TUF alum Tim Credeur, recently signed UFC Heavyweight Oleksiy Oliynyk, former UFC and Pride veteran Amar Suloev, and former WEC and UFC vet Tim Mckenzie.
Chael the joined the blue mat special promotion, the WEC and went 2-1, losing his initial fight to Paulo Filho, winning his second against Bellator tournament finalist Bryan Baker then won the rematch with Filho.
And like the empire in Star Wars, Chael struck back into the UFC.
Only to fall to his arch nemesis once more, the traumatic triangle choke, this time applied by Demeian Maia at UFC 95.
Chael did his best Wilt Chamberlain impression and rebounded once more, winning 3 straight in the UFC including unanimous decision victories over former 185 pound title challengers, Yushin Okami at UFC 104 and Nate Marquardt at UFC 109.
Then Chael had his first opportunity at UFC gold.
Everyone knew Chael was an artist at trash talking, but at the press conferences leading up to the bout, the master was able to showcase his craft, and the 4-1 underdog made a majority of fans feel like it was a split fight.
First Sonnen attacked Silva’s attire.
“I’m the toughest guy in the company, period…whether it’s Anderson or any other opponent. There’s never been a guy with earrings that can out-tough me and he’s not going to be the first.”
Then Silva’s stance in the company.
“I’m a partner of the UFC and Anderson’s an employee. There’s a big difference. That’s why all the questions keep coming to me, because I give a coherent and clear answer that somebody wants to hear and he sits on a speakerphone on a car somewhere and says yes and no.”
Chael provided a minor prediction.
“I’m not of the camp that goes out and says ridiculous things like ‘I’m going to go out and bang’ or ‘One of us is going to fall down.’ I’m going to be standing. He’s going to be flat on his back. If I gotta stay out there and pound on him for 25 minutes and go home and watch myself on the DVR, that’s fine with me.”
Then he played the role of an IRS agent and informed him on what he would take.
“I don’t believe in sportsmanship and honor and all this crap that you guys like to talk about. I think it’s a fight. Go out there and do whatever you want. I just don’t like him. That’s it. I don’t need to offer an apology or need to provide an explanation. We can’t all get along. He and I are going to be friends and we’re going to go out and fight. I don’t wish him a bad life. I don’t wish that anything bad happens to him. I’m going to take his belt on August 7th and Dana’s going to fire him on August 8th.”
Chael went on to inform the attending media that this wasn’t hype, he believed as the media should, that he could win.
“I can drag Anderson Silva out of a hotel and beat up him anytime I want. I’ve made a commitment to wait until August 7th and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure millions of people watch me do it.”
Finally he called out Silva’s lack of salesmanship.
“Well Penny, you knew when you asked him a question, you were setting yourself up for a boring answer…and you got one. He truly believes the answer he gave a few minutes ago, that people are tuning into see a fight and not see anything else. He really means that. He feels like he’s taking the moral high ground. He couldn’t be more wrong. Does he know anything about business? Has this guy ever done anything? This isn’t what people are tuning into see. People don’t just want to see two people fight…they want to know why they are fighting. He comes on here and says something stupid as though he’s saying some Nobel prize winning statement. He couldn’t have this industry more backwards. It’s shocking that he believes it and stands there with his chest out and acts like he we should all pat him on the back and go, ‘Good job Anderson…you’re training really hard.’ Well guess what, dummy? I’ve been training really hard since I was nine years old and I still have time to bring interest for people to see me whip your ass on August 7th.”
Then in the main event of UFC 117, Chael went out and did what he promised to do.
He beat Anderson Silva.
For 4 rounds and 3 minutes and 10 seconds, then for the third time in his UFC career, from the third Brazilian, in the third minute of the last round, Sonnen was caught and forced to tap to a triangle once more.
Triangles have 3 corners. Bad things do indeed come in threes.
Following the bout Sonnen tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone and had to serve a suspension.
But like star wars once more, the American Jedi returned.
Chael defeated Brian Stann at UFC 136 via arm-triangle choke then he closed the trap of the loud mouth Brit, Michael Bisping at UFC on Fox 1 via unanimous decision.
Then maybe the most anticipated sequel since the Hangover 2 was announced.
The Spider would tangle with The American Gangster once more.
The Gangster was more solemn and humble in his trash talk this time around.
“People can’t understand why I’m not getting caught up on the hype of Anderson Silva, but he can’t take the magazine covers and press stories into the Octagon with him. He’s just a man with two arms, two legs—and I’m going to beat him on July 7 because I want it more than he does. I don’t need anything in my life—but I have to have that belt. Everything I’ve done, everything I’ve worked for and sacrificed—everything I have in life—I would give it all away to be the UFC champion for just one night.”
“You’re looking at the reflection of perfection, you’re looking at the man that gets all the attention. The man with the biggest arm and the biggest charm, the man in Chicago that will do harm to the guy 3 doors down. When I was a little kid, I’d go outside with my friends and we’d talk about the latest in technology, medicine, gaming and American ingenuity while Anderson and the Brazilian kids were outside playing in the mud.”
Then the icing on the cake….or steak.
“You tell Anderson Silva that I’m coming over and I’m kicking down his backdoor and patting his little lady on the ass and I’m telling her to make me a steak, medium-rare, just how I like it.”
The rematch was much like the first bout in round one, where Chael landed 76 strikes while in a dominant position and Silva landed a goose egg.
Round 2 was a different story, Sonnen made one mistake and paid for it, he missed a spinning back elbow and tripped, and the Spider took advantage and finished Chael with knees and strikes.
Following the fight Sonnen returned to the 205 pound class for the first time since 2005, and was chosen to coach TUF alongside Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones. Many critics didn’t enjoy that Sonnen received this opportunity because he hadn’t fought since the Middleweight Title loss but Dana White backed up Chael stating that at UFC 151, Sonnen was prepared to fight on a day’s notice for the title when other top 205ers like Machida and Rua declined the offer.
The trash talking leading up to this title fight was few and far between.
Until the weigh-in.
“I’m happy you and everyone here can be here to witness this,” Sonnen said to Joe Rogan after stepping off the scale. “You’re going to tell your kids’ kids’ kids that he was real. He existed. The myth of Chael Sonnen stood before us, he brought down the hometown hero, and when it was all said and done, it was one more in the record books, one more in the win column and one more for the bad guy.”
Jones would go on to win the fight via TKO with 30 tics left in the first, but if Chael would’ve hung on for just that long. He’d have been the new champ.
In the post fight interview with Jon, it was revealed that his toe had been broken and split like the 7 and 10 pins in a bowling alley.
Many fans and critics alike thought that Chael should hang up his gloves at this point.
Sonnen took the nay-sayers and his next opponent by the throat.
4 minutes and 47 seconds into round 1, Sonnen guillotine choked former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix Champion, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
Sonnen then dropped his next fight to another former UFC 205 pound champion, Rashad Evans via TKO in the first and after that Chael coached TUF Brazil 3 and the drama mentioned at the beginning ensued.
Now the question is does the 9th ranked UFC Light Heavyweight and man that has danced with 5 UFC Champions, 10 UFC number 1 contenders, and had 3 UFC Title fights deserve to be in the Ultimate Fighting Championship Hall of Fame?
In my humble opinion, Duh.
He’s already the best at selling himself and his own fights, why not enshrine him and keep him around to promote others in the company, Dana white said himself that he could see Sonnen as president somewhere down the line.
When history books are written, Chael’s name will go hand in hand with Paul Heyman’s in regards to the best in fight hyping abilities.
So in conclusion, yes the legacy of a man that would fight anyone, anywhere, anytime, regardless of weight, size, reach, resume, color of trunks, maiden name, rap sheet or haircut. The man that could promote a snail’s race in Antarctica and have a sell out crowd attend, the man that could talk his way out of jail with a gun in one hand and a knife in the other. The man whose face appears in red on the pajamas of Chuck Norris, white on the underwear of Hulk Hogan and blue on Sylvester Stallone’s onesie.
The man, the soon to be myth and the forever legend, Chael Sonnen’s legacy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.