Chael Sonnen already has a big fight scheduled with Jon Jones—you may have heard the news already—but it seems like the new light heavyweight may have another opponent ready to step in the cage down the road.
Rampage Jackson isn't a fan of Sonnen's antics. That's partially because Sonnen started taking unprovoked shots at Jackson last year. Okay, I shouldn't say "partially," because the bad blood is almost entirely due to Sonnen's constant mentioning of Jackson in the press.
"If I see Chael Sonnen and he says anything to my face, I don't know if I'm going to smack him or not," Jackson told Inside MMA on Monday night. "I don't like the guy."
"What's his name? Chael? Chael's mouth gets his ass in trouble," Jackson continued. "The dude is exciting for two minutes, and then you just want to turn down the volume. It's like he practices his stuff in the mirror that he goes out and says. He's a great wrestler. That's all I'm going to say, because everything else sucks."
To an extent, I can understand why Jackson is upset. It's no fun to be the target of anyone's trash-talking, especially when you haven't done anything towards that person to warrant it.
But I also feel like this is another case of a fighter not understanding the tactics behind what Sonnen does. This isn't surprising; very few fighters in the sport watched as much professional wrestling as Sonnen did while growing up, so it stands to reason that they'd be confused when they suddenly find themselves being targeted in one of Sonnen's Billy Graham-style promos.
But I'm a little surprised that Jackson doesn't get it. I know he grew up as a big fan of professional wrestling in Memphis, and a big part of the theatricality that made Jackson into a mixed martial arts superstar was based on, you guessed it, professional wrestling. Jackson realized the value of entertaining the fans while fighting in Japan, and so he tailored his own persona to meet those needs.
I'm not saying that everyone in MMA should start modeling themselves after Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair. One or two Chael Sonnens is certainly enough. If everyone in the fighting world started doing their own pro wrestling schtick, it would get overbearing in a hurry. It'd be hard for outsiders in the mainstream to take the sport seriously, and nobody wants that.
But there's nothing wrong with what Sonnen does, because thus far, it's unique to him. And it's helped turn him from also-ran into a guy who is getting a title shot in a brand-new weight class after coming off a loss to the champion in his old weight class. More importantly, it's helping his bank account. This is prizefighting, after all, and Sonnen's pursuit of the prize is justified.
Jackson has made it abundantly clear that he's after the prize. He's trying to make as much money as he possibly can while he still has the ability to do so. He lives a fairly extravagant life and makes no apologies about it, but that lifestyle requires that he make a lot of money.
The main reason he's considering leaving the UFC after his next fight? Because other promotions are offering more money. Not in any sort of official capacity, because that would be contract tampering. But Jackson has repeatedly stated that he's going to take the best financial offer he can get after his next UFC fight.
I don't begrudge him that, and I think looking out for yourself is a smart decision. I just think it's a bit silly that he's getting fired up over Sonnen doing the same thing.
Or perhaps I'm a total mark—to use a pro wrestling term—and Jackson is simply building up a potential fight with Sonnen. After all, Sonnen is now in Jackson's division, and a fight that wasn't possible when Sonnen started bad-mouthing Jackson is now entirely within the realm of possibility. In fact, I think it's inevitable.
If that's the case, then kudos to Jackson, because he "gets it" far more than I think he does.
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