UFC 148: Is Chael Sonnen Delusional or Deceitfully Brilliant?

Anthony GannonContributor IIIJuly 3, 2012

TUALATIN, OR - JUNE 26:  Chael Sonnen takes a break during a workout at the Team Quest gym on June 26, 2012 in Tualatin, Oregon.  Sonnen will fight Anderson Silva July 7, 2012 at UFC 148 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen is an interesting fellow. He’s become known as much for his relentless verbal assaults outside the cage as he is for his unyielding physical pressure inside of it.

His Twitter page is filled with a plethora of off-the-wall one-liners. And when someone sticks a microphone in his face, he never misses an opportunity to go after whatever unfortunate soul happens to be in his crosshairs at the moment.

He even carries around a fake championship belt and declares that he is the real champ, even though Anderson Silva made him tap out at UFC 117.

He’s so outrageous it’s sometimes difficult to figure out if he has been talking so much nonsense for so long that he actually believes it.

He’s run the gamut in his attacks. No one is immune, regardless of whether there’s a realistic chance of them ever fighting or not. At a Q&A session in Austin, Texas prior to his UFC 117 loss to Anderson Silva, Sonnen opened fire on just about everyone. He said of Georges St. Pierre:

"'GSP, do you have a hankering for pain? GSP, did you lose a bet with God? GSP, bring your $3,000 suit, bring your $3 date and get the three-cent tan knocked off your socialist back. If you see GSP, give him that message for me."

The socialist comment, of course, stems from GSP being French-Canadian, and Sonnen, being a “real American,” takes issue with that.

Sonnen didn’t just pick on smaller guys, though. He took on guys his own size, and bigger—much bigger. He took issue with Brock Lesnar calling himself the “baddest guy on the planet.”

"If Brock Lesnar was here right now, I'd take my boot off and throw it at him, and he'd better polish it up before he brings it back to me. Talking about he's the baddest guy in the UFC? Brock, quit eating so many raw eggs and doing push-ups because it's affecting your realm of reality. Are you kidding me? I'd slap you in your face, and you wouldn't do anything.”

Those are harsh words to hurl at a man who carries around 280 pounds of high-twitch muscle fiber. But that’s just Sonnen. He’s an outlaw. Quite literally.

In early 2011 Sonnen pleaded guilty to federal money laundering charges stemming from a real estate scam where he directed the payment of $69,000 to a plumbing company owned by his mother for work that was never to be done. He faced some hefty penalties, the possibility of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, but in the plea agreement he received only two years probation, a $10,000 fine and forfeiture of his real estate license.

Right around that time he was also suspended for having 17 times the allowable testosterone/epitestosterone ratio of a normal man.

For all Sonnen’s self-righteousness, he’s clearly not one who practices what he preaches. But then again, he’s an aspiring politician, and that sort of arrogance is par for the course.  In 2010 Sonnen ran for the state legislature in Oregon’s 37th district, but lost the race. Like many politicians, Sonnen prescribes to a “do as I say not as I do” mentality.

But by far the most irksome topic to Chael Sonnen is Brazilian fighters. He’s taken special aim at Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He’s not only attacked the fighters, but the Brazilian culture, education system, economy, status in the world, etc.

It’s curious because Sonnen holds a poor record against Brazilian fighters—four losses with just a single victory. Perhaps that’s part of what fuels his disdain.

Sonnen is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some love his shtick, some hate it. Wherever one stands, though, it’s hard to argue that his mouth has not made Sonnen a fighter of interest.

Before he adopted the garrulous approach, he was just another middleweight. Now he’s must-see TV. He has toned it down as of late, perhaps because his showing in his last fight lacked creativity and seemed way too robotically rehearsed.

When Sonnen takes on Anderson Silva in a rematch at UFC 148, though, look for the words and the fists to fly because that level of smack talk cannot help but to elicit a forceful response, as evidenced by Silva’s recent tirade.

Sonnen got into Silva’s head. Sure, the champion played it cool for a long time, but the anger was just building up all this time. And that is exactly what Sonnen wanted.

As Sonnen has shown time and again, he doesn’t care if it’s true, false, outrageous or just downright insane—he’s going to say it. And even if people think it’s ridiculous, he’s learned that toeing the line between reality and delusion can be used to his benefit.