The MMA world was hit by the news that this week Chael Sonnen, a/k/a “The Bad Guy,” has signed a new multi-fight deal with Bellator. I, myself, have always been particularly impressed with Chael Sonnen and his ability to stay relevant in an era when it is increasingly difficult to make your voice heard.
He first hit the big-time in the UFC at UFC 117 where he took Anderson Silva to the limit. He proved that he was indeed human by winning all four rounds until his eventual submission in the 5th. Silva had seemed to be a fighter operating on a different level than others until this fight and it both earned them Fight of the Night honors and was awarded Fight of the Year by World MMA awards.
From just prior to the fight and since, he has developed his “Bad Guy” persona and brought a new level of interest in himself and his new ventures, whether it be his fighting, his podcasts, or his commentating and analyst work. It may grate certain “hardcore” fans that don’t particularly care for the WWE-style shtick that he uses time and time again, but there can be no denying that it yields results.
As a fighter, Chael is an outstandingly strong wrestler, with average submission skills. He is currently listed as a purple belt under Fabiano Scherner. His striking is rudimentary at best. However, he has defeated such notable names as Jason Miller, Renato Sobral, Paulo Filho, Dan Miller, Yushin Okami, Nate Marquardt, Brian Stann, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, and current UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping.
However, it was his persona of the Bad Guy, being vocal and bombastic – not to mention funny – that has catapulted him into stardom. Rather than being known as the man who took Anderson Silva to the limit, he is sought after for his fighting knowledge, his insight into the mentality of fighters, his coaching, and his knowledge of the darker side of the sport due to his failed drug tests. Rather than been pilloried for taking drugs and, eventually, owning up to it, he has been lauded for speaking about it so honestly. Many people take drugs in the sport, and even though he did not come out as a definite drugs cheat until he had no choice, he has not been tarnished with it. Rather, he has used the media brilliantly, to garner sympathy and what he has to say on the matter is genuinely interesting.
He is a three-time UFC title challenger, ran as a Republican candidate, he has been found guilty of money laundering, he has appeared in two movies, was a coach on the Ultimate Fighter, he is married and has a child, he is a commentator for WSOF, he is a NCAA Division All-American, and he was voted Personality of the Year in 2013 at the World MMA Awards
He is not squeaky clean, he is a drugs cheat, and he is not that interesting a fighter to watch. However, for me Chael is must-watch, must-listen to, must absorb-info, and I love the man for who he is.
(Christopher King of Arundel, England is a new MMATorch contributor. He got hooked on MMA after watching UFC 114 featuring “Rampage” Jackson vs. Rashad Evans and from there, he says, “I spent a ridiculous amount of money and time watching every event from UFC 1 up to the present so I could understand the history of the sport, the fighters, the weight divisions and everything else in between. It was the style of fighting that drew me in, in order to see what martial art was the most effective, and from there, the fighters themselves, their story, their training and the sacrifices that they go through.” Follow him on Twitter – @ChristofKing)