A hero almost stepped up to save the co-main event at UFC 161. It was a hero who has offered to step in and save fights before but who often endures scrutiny for his fight-selling tactics.
That man is Chael Sonnen.
With Antonio Rogerio Nogueira's injury and subsequent departure from UFC 161, a glaring hole was left in the co-main event against Mauricio Rua that would have damaged the card beyond total repair (as if it didn't already hurt from losing the former main event between Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland). However, the brash American known for his power wrestling and acid tongue offered his services on very short notice to save the bout with Rua.
It was not meant to be, however, as visa issues will prevent Sonnen from partaking in the affair.
Although this fight was good to go, and Sonnen was willing to take the fight with Rua on about 12 days' notice, we obviously will not be able to see that fight. Fight or not, Sonnen needs to be respected for offering to take the bout.
This isn't the first time he has offered to take a high-profile fight on short notice. When Dan Henderson dropped out of the ill-fated UFC 151, Sonnen was the only man who was willing to fight Jones for the title. It was Jones and his camp who refused, leading to the dissipation of that card.
That's why Sonnen was rewarded with an Ultimate Fighter coaching job opposite of Jones and a title shot, even though many didn't think he deserved it. Sometimes, being the top contender isn't the only way you can get a title shot. Sometimes, a title shot goes to the guy who was willing to save a main event—or, in this case, an entire card—knowing that a loss would likely prevent him from seeing a title shot again.
So, for as much flak as Sonnen takes for talking his way into fights and being a media goon, you have to respect a guy who is willing to take on extremely dangerous opponents on such short notice. Sure, you may not like the way he carries himself at press conferences, on Twitter or in front of cameras, but it's his persona you should dislike, not the warrior himself.
He will continue to be a polarizing figure no matter what he does, because he will continue to be in the bright lights and in front of a camera. So, love Sonnen or hate him, at least respect his attitude toward the fight world.