Well, it looks like I was wrong, and I don't mind admitting it.
Heading into UFC 159, I was fairly confident that Chael Sonnen would lose to Jon Jones. I was also sure that Sonnen would retire after the fight.
I was half right, at least.
I thought Sonnen had accomplished everything he wanted to accomplish in his fighting career. Over the course of three years, he morphed from an obscure middleweight into one of the UFC's biggest stars, and he did it using his mouth. Sure, he beat some of the UFC's top-ranked middleweights, but let's not kid ourselves: Sonnen is where he's at today because he's a master promoter.
He earned three title shots in two different divisions. Yes, he lost all three of them, but there are plenty of fighters who will never find themselves in a single title fight, let alone three. And Sonnen was granted his final opportunity while coming off a loss, and in a division he hadn't competed in for years.
If ever there was a pitch-perfect example of what having a big mouth can do for you, Sonnen is it. Some fighters toil for years, racking up big winning streaks and putting together great performances, and yet they never come close to fighting for a belt because they are perceived as boring. They aren't assertive, and so they are treated as an afterthought.
Sonnen was assertive. He was ridiculous at times, to be sure, but he didn't wait for someone to hand him the brass ring. He went out and took it.
And now, just days after being crushed by Jones at UFC 159, Sonnen is back at it. He's not retiring for a life as a Fox Sports analyst, as I predicted he would. Instead, he's pulling out his gun and aiming it directly at long-time nemesis Wanderlei Silva.
Here's what Sonnen had to say on Tuesday night's episode of UFC Tonight:
Silva fired back via Twitter on Wednesday:
The real man talk face to face! youtu.be/5xir5HN24e8quero ver se vai matter a disposicao no cara!!! Lets go!!!— Wanderlei Silva (@wandfc) May 1, 2013
And of course, Sonnen wasn't about to let Silva have the final word:
IN YOUR CASE, WANDERLEI, ISN'T IT "REAL MEN MUMBLE FACE TO FACE?"@wandfc— chael sonnen (@sonnench) May 1, 2013
Sonnen and Silva have been going back and forth in the media for what seems like an eternity. Sonnen started it, as he usually does, by taking shots at Silva and fellow Brazilians during UFC fan Q&A sessions.
But even though the back-and-forth between the two fighters was entertaining, it always had the feel of a fight that would never happen. Sonnen was a top middleweight contender, and Silva was nearing the end of his career.
Things are different now. Silva has won two of his last three fights, and even though he's still not a contender for titles at middleweight or light heavyweight, he's relevant. Sonnen has lost two championship fights in a row, and the chances of him receiving another one anytime soon are remote at best.
So why not make the biggest money fights available?
That idea probably suits Sonnen and Silva just fine. If you're Sonnen or Silva, and you know your championship-contention days are mostly over, you have to consider your future. At this point, it's better to look out for your bank account than to fool yourself into thinking you're still a contender.
Do you want to see Sonnen vs. Silva?
That's why this fight makes sense. You pair up two popular veterans. You let them build up a fight, and you put it on pay-per-view. Or you put it on the Fox Sports 1 card in August, because Dana White has already noted that he plans on bringing a stacked event to Boston for the launch of the network. Sonnen vs. Silva as the co-main event—or even the main event, if no title fights are available—seems like the kind of big fight White is referring to.
I'd watch it. You would too. And that's why Sonnen is sticking around. Because even though his dreams of collecting UFC gold are likely dead and buried, he's still money for the UFC.
And when you bring viewers in for the UFC, they're going to reward you by padding your bank account with the kind of dollars that will give you security for the rest of your life.