With two losses to the present champion and standing firmly in his mid-30s, it didn't seem like Chael Sonnen had many options in July. He was a middleweight, with two failed attempts to reach the peak of the divisional mountain, and no clear path ahead of him.
All it took for that to change was Dan Henderson's knee injury and some creative trash talk. All of a sudden, he had become the No. 1 contender at light heavyweight.
Of course, that option wouldn't present itself to just anyone. However, Sonnen has shown the unique ability to sell fights by stealing headlines and being willing to take fights that not everyone is keen on.
He called out Anderson Silva when no one would, and now he told the world he wanted Jon Jones when no one else did..
That gave him a big fight, something he has grown accustomed to looking for over the past few years.
But make no mistake, this is his last big fight. Win or lose, there aren't many big paydays left for him in the cage. With 40 fights in his career, Sonnen doesn't have that many paydays left at all.
So why not retire after UFC 159, whether he is successful in taking the title from Jon Jones or not?
If he somehow beats Jones and becomes champion, what more incredible headline to make than to say he is walking away an undefeated champion? That would bring attention to his own post-fighting ventures and serve as one last dig at his nemesis Silva—the only man who is looking at doing that legitimately.
If he loses, he was never supposed to win anyway, so he can retire to a pretty good life too. He will score that last million-buy PPV cut and move on to his role as unofficial face of the UFC on FOX.
Think of all the doors that will open up in the coming years. Sonnen is showing he has a knack for that kind of publicity, so he won't ever be left in the cold.
In fact, Sonnen only matters because he has learned how to steal headlines in the back-half of his career. The past three years or so have been an absolute clinic in how to scrape every last dollar out of some pretty run-of-mill skills in the cage.
And it's been fantastic to watch.
So if stealing headlines is the goal, a retirement regardless of the outcomes at UFC 159 isn't a bad plan. Win or lose, Sonnen ends up in the same place—with a cushy gig as a paid analyst, maybe a coach on the side, knowing that he was one of the best self-promoters the sport has ever seen.
Worse legacies exist.
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