Chael Sonnen holds three areas of expertise: fighting, ruffling feathers and contriving controversy. Of these skills, ruffling feathers is most interwoven with his persona.
Since 2010, the Oregonian has antagonized the Zen right out of Anderson Silva, prompting Silva to burst out in hostility for the first time in his UFC career.
Chael expects us to think of him: “Oh that loony guy, talking to Anderson that way. He’s sure got a backbone. I like his moxie.”
The clever wrestler has brewed a formula for creating fandom that many have fallen for. Good for him.
Unfortunately for Sonnen, he’s forged a reputation that is extremely volatile.
Chael Sonnen is a volcano of machismo and swagger, but chooses to spew magma at merely a few targets—mostly Brazilians.
Fans endorse Sonnen because he didn’t let Silva bulldoze him and because he fires brazen words at the deified champ without relent. But Sonnen’s words will be rendered empty if “The Spider” breaks him, and perhaps so will the joker himself.
Before he unleashed that barrage of mockery upon Silva in 2010, Chael Sonnen was another faceless flea, destined to be entangled in the web of “The Spider.” But his trash talk earned him clout as a sort of heroic jester. He backed his trash talk—sort of—which garnered him respect.
Because talk is so important to Sonnen, his image will shrivel if he doesn’t pound the champ. He’ll tumble out of immediate relevancy with a loss, and so too will his words.
What will become of Sonnen if he loses?
Today, he’s soaking in the spotlight. Chael savors every moment as his words echo throughout the MMA landscape. But if he’s thoroughly bested come July 7, he’ll be 0-2 against Silva—Sonnen’s primary fuel for sustenance will have invalidated him.
The jokes that stratified Sonnen will be stripped of their zest and relevance, and only zealots will continue to heed him.
Chael Sonnen has forged himself though belittling Anderson Silva and his comrades. If Sonnen loses, perhaps his image will need to be rebuilt, lest his fans grow weary of his hollow, unbacked talk.
But hey, if he wins, Sonnen will become a hyperbolic, legendary American badass. Either way, I can’t wait to see the drama unfold.