Chael Sonnen, you are truly a man amongst men.
Sure, you run your mouth rampant with the absolute best of them, so good in fact that Joe Rogan deemed you the world champion of trash talk.
Sure, it seemed to more than a few people that your mouth was writing checks your ass couldn't cash.
Sure, you might have rubbed a few people the wrong way.
All of that said sir, every individual considering themselves a fan of mixed martial arts owes you a great display of appreciation. You are due all of our gratitude and then some.
After your near five round tilt with a man considered by many to be the world’s pound for pound greatest mixed martial artist, if not one of the greatest ever, you left the cage a defeated man.
You said in the post fight press conference that your heart had been broken. While no one could pretend to fathom the hurt and pain of losing such a courageous battle, this MMA fan begs you to pick up your chin and carry your head high.
Be proud Chael, be very proud of what you did Saturday night at UFC 117.
What you did not do was emerge a world champion with your hand in the air. That obvious devastating fact brings with it a wealth of questions that can’t be answered, and a gauntlet of regret and second guessing that only you can navigate.
But that statement alone does not paint the entire picture—not even in the slightest.
Quite simply, when you were running your mind games, and selling this fight, all the while driving yourself under the skin of both your opponent and his supporters, many disbelieved you would amount to anything more than the next man in a long line of helpless victims caught in the web of a spider.
Few bought into your rhetoric; even fewer believed you could deliver come fight night. Unfortunately, your reputation could not compete with the legend of an all time great when fight fans were weighing the two against each other.
The easy money was on Anderson Silva; apparently, the good money was on you. Hindsight is always 20/20.
What you did do, Chael Sonnen, was not what you might have hoped for, or better yet what you worked so hard to make happen. What you did do was not what you ultimately had in mind.
But what you accomplished Saturday night was nothing short of absolutely astonishing. Defeat is ultimate, second place as you put it, is the first loser. But losing is in the eye of the beholder.
Perception and fact can often divide a common outcome. To steal a theory from an old love bird’s statement, “it is better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all”.
That theory holds true during this obviously trying experience in your life as a fighter who has touched greatness and consequently found a greatness of your own that you may have never found had you not been pushed to the brink as you were this weekend.
In this case, it is better to have challenged for UFC Gold and lost than never to have challenged at all. During your 23 minute run, you commanded a respect that no one thus far has even sniffed during competition with Silva. That statement is true even among those who defeated him.
You stole the rug right out from under anyone who doubted you, which consequently was almost everyone up until you showed them your true colors. Gone was the trash talk, gone was the disrespect, and gone were the doubt and questions that preceded the first time you rocked the champ.
Your loss has equally become your victory. You may not be a UFC champion today, but your accomplishments in pursuit of that championship shine extremely bright in comparison to the hard truths of the perception of your failures.
The fact is, you lost the fight. Another fact is you are a champion, if only in theory.
Looking back, many former MMA world champions couldn't have even pretended to bring the war into the cage with them that you brought against Silva. Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin, and Forrest Griffin found their championship pedigrees worthless against The Spider.
All of their reputations far exceed your own. Yet you did more in less than five rounds than any of them could in six total rounds combined. All of them are former champions, mind you.
What does that say about you? It tells us, even if you don't buy in, that you are by far and away worthy of a champion’s respect, even if the ever elusive championship gold is not secured around your waist.
During your time spent in the cage with this pound-for-pound king you reigned supreme without a single moment of doubt. Questions and predictions of your impending devastation were abandoned and replaced with shock and disbelief.
As the fight pressed on and your war was brought to the front of the discussion tides changed. Times and beliefs have changed with those tides.
You made what once seemed like a walk in the park for Silva look like Armageddon. You made a man who once would pick and choose when and how a fight was going to go look desperate as he succumbed to your dictation.
Before this fight happened, the biggest question was which Anderson Silva would show up. You had the distinct honor of introducing the world to a new Anderson Silva, a Silva many didn't believe existed.
You introduced them to Anderson Silva—the man. You introduced the world to a vulnerable and beatable Anderson Silva. You reminded all of us that even the most unbeatable of opponents carry armor that is only skin deep.
Even when Silva found his hand raised and his championship belt securely around his waist, he had to wonder himself how it was that he was standing there preparing a victory speech and you were leaving the cage a beaten man.
He is the champion for a reason is what is said, and there is much truth to that statement.
More so than any words can explain, many times actions will speak volumes in comparison to spoken words. Even after all the back and forth, the champion who had just bested you, lay at your feet bowed down in the ultimate show of martial arts respect.
Judging by your own words, that respect and honor are not why you do this, you're a fighter and such aspects don't win fights. But when a fight has already been won or lost, nothing is more important than respect.
Silva gave you the greatest show of respect this fight fan has ever seen. That act in my eyes is worth more than any war of words or even spoken displays of respect can ever say.
In the end, you did more than anyone has ever been able to do with this man. You may have lost this war, but your abilities within it opened all of our eyes to a great deal that many of us either did not believe or simply just couldn't fathom.
Absolute domination combined with utter defeat must be a bittersweet symphony for you. But it is a symphony that soothes when the melody is truly felt through the highs and the lows of the complete ballad.
The tone of defeat saddens the soul, but the most compelling portions of the performance detail a victory that simply can not be measured in terms of winning or losing.
Once again, thank you for what you did, thank you for the risks you took, thank you for the lessons you taught, thank you for the beating you administered, and thank you for assuming defeat as a much more respectable man than you were when you predicted your victory.
Your hand may not be raised as a champion, but your chin better damn well be raised and carried high. You have earned all of our respect, but more so than any one's respect the appreciation you should hold most high is that of the champion you tested beyond anything he ever imagined possible.
Hats off to you Chael Sonnen. I think it's safe to say we all look forward to what you do next.
This article originally featured at Hurtsbad.com
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