Whether you love or hate Chael Sonnen, you can't deny that his approach to building up fights has been effective.
And at the end of the day, that's ultimately what Sonnen's shtick is all about. Maybe you're the type who loves his brand of trash-talking. Perhaps you take him seriously, or don't take him seriously, but hate the professional wrestling-influenced style he uses.
Either way, Sonnen's getting what he wants.
In the promotion business—and mixed martial arts falls under that category—being cared about, one way or another, is the only thing that matters. If the fans love to watch you fight, that's great. If they want to pay to see you get your ass kicked, that's also great. It's when they stop caring that you fall by the wayside.
Urijah Faber is a fighter who understands where Sonnen is coming from. Faber, who faces Renan Barao later this month at UFC 149, recently commented on Sonnen's rise from obscurity to fame:
I think this sport needs guys like Chael Sonnen.
The guy was coming over from the WEC as world champion and then came over and got put on the undercard for the UFC. I think he chose to make a switch and said I need to stand out in this sport and just being the nice, intelligent guy that I am is not enough.
He probably won’t admit to that, but the guy made a switch and decided, hey, I’m gonna stand out in this sport. I’m gonna create my own opportunities and he does it in an interesting way that people either really hate or really love.
Faber makes a valid point, but it's not entirely accurate. Sonnen's first fight upon his return to the UFC was against Demian Maia, and it was on the main card of UFC 95. His next fight, against Dan Miller at UFC 98, was also a main-card fight.
As a matter of fact, Sonnen's only preliminary-card appearance since his return to the UFC came against Yushin Okami at UFC 104.
But the point is still valid.
Sonnen toiled in obscurity until he started verbally bashing Anderson Silva. He made a conscious decision to get his name in front of the public by doing whatever it took, and it worked like a charm. Whether you love him or hate him, there's no denying that Sonnen is now considered one of the biggest stars in the UFC.
This is not to say that every fighter in the UFC should take Sonnen's approach, because a bunch of guys cutting wacky pro wrestling-style promos would get old quickly.
But fighters need to do something to stand out from the pack. Instead of blandly saying, "I'll fight whoever the UFC wants me to" after scoring a big win, take some initiative. Find a guy ranked above you in your division and call him out. Joe Silva loves it when fighters make his job easier, and making his job easier is a sure-fire way of getting some attention for yourself.
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