Chael Sonnen and Muhammad Ali: Any Comparison?
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Dana White has recently given Chael Sonnen an incredible compliment and placed him in a laudable category. White, the polarizing genius president of the UFC, claims: “I have never seen anyone who can talk like this guy since Muhammad Ali" (1).
In order to be the considered a great talker and spoken of in the same breath as the iconic Ali, there are prerequisites that need to be met. A great talker needs to speak the truth, possess upstanding character, back up their talking and behave ethically. Granted, Chael is amusing, but let us examine this claim further to see if this bold comparison carries any validity.
Anyone can talk. Some compete. Very few become champions. However, the internet can now separate truth from fiction. In appreciating one's accolades it is important to know the facts behind one's boasting. If they are lies, then the talks value is obviously cheapened.
Chael claims to have won a silver medal at the 2001 World Championships. Chael prior to his fight with Anderson Silva: "I've got two national championship plaques on my wall that [say] I can take him down. I've got a silver medal from the world championships in 2001 that says he can't stop me from taking him down. If he's got an answer to it, God bless him" (2).
Compare this to Ali. Ali won a gold medal in boxing at the Rome Summer Olympics in 1960. He was a three time champion of the world, attempting 19 title defenses. Now while Sonnen's achievement is impressive, it is also fictitious. The silver medalist at the 2001 World Championships was Chael's teammate, Matt Lindland (3).
Finishing second at the World University games in a relatively obscure sport seems to not be worthy of comparison to Ali, who in addition to being a Hall of Famer and an all-time pound-for-pound great, was also the undisputed heavyweight king for nearly two decades. Not only are Chael's claims of achievements inferior to what Ali accomplished, Sonnen's boasts are lies. The axiom: "I hear what you do and not what you say" appears to be appropriate for comparing the two and examining their accomplishments. The Oregon native did in fact win a silver medal at the 2000 World University Games, which is a much less prestigious award.
When one speaks, often people respect their words based on their character more than the wisdom being expounded. A fat trainer garners less respect than one with a shredded stomach. When both of these men talk, their pasts follow them. Ali and Sonnen were both convicted of felonies. Ali for draft evasion, Sonnen for money laundering and mortgage fraud (4).
The boxing legend did so on moral principles, because he had no interest in killing random strangers with whom he held no rancour. Ali lost three and a half years of his prime and potential earnings in the multi-millions. Sonnen swindled people of their money in order to profit his mother and himself. Ali, who could have accepted a noncombat position, refused to enter the army on any condition. Sonnen agreed to work with prosecutors to help convict others in order to reduce his own sentence. Ali eventually won his case on appeal and had his conviction overturned, while Chael is serving two years probation.
The Big Stage:
Talking the talk and walking the walk means to deliver on what you promise. Anyone can boast, but being able to accomplish what you predict is the real achievement. Ali's biggest fights were his two against Liston, his three against Frazier and his epic "Rumble in the Jungle" against Foreman. He won six of the seven and five of the six were via KO. Chael Sonnen has lost both of his two major title fights. He lost to Paulo Filho for the WEC title and to Anderson Silva for the UFC belt.
It makes no sense to compare someone who has never won a major championship to one who is universally recognized as a top-10 great by virtually everybody. Sonnen is 4-2 in the UFC—submitting in both losses—and has only one win from a stoppage. In fact, Chael tapped out to a triangle/arm bar after equating getting a black belt in Jiu Jitsu from the Nogueira brothers to a toy found in a McDonald's Happy Meal. This further defines Sonnen as one who exudes disrespect as opposed to deserving respect for his deeds.
In order to be a true winner, one must legitimately prove themselves as the winner. This is done by following the agreed upon rules. One way of dishonouring oneself is through drug testing. Ali never failed a drug test. Sonnen has. Chael, while knowingly taking testosterone injections, lied on a pre-fight form by stating he had not taken any banned substances (5). His usage and lack of disclosure resulted in a fine and suspension from the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC).
Does Chael Sonnen deserve credit for being a great talker?
Making humorous comments that display wit and cleverness are to be commended. However, it is a sport and it is another person's reputation that suffers from these attempts to be comical. Both parties failed here at times. Ali crossed the line with comments made about Frazier. The MMA star recently said: "You tell Anderson Silva I'm coming over and I'm kicking down his backdoor and patting his little lady on the ass, and I'm telling her to make me a steak, medium-rare, just how I like it." To me that crosses the line of humour and is clearly offensive.
The talented contender potentially sunk to even worse levels of putrid disrespect when he allegedly commented on Lance Armstrong (6). The voice, listed as Chael's, states that Lance's cheating gave him cancer and now he is playing victim and profiting from his steroid use. Chael has denied that it is his voice on the recording. The link is available below. On the Jim Rome show Sonnen stated that listeners would agree that it is not his voice. What do you think?
In conclusion, to compliment one for lying, losing and cheating seems nonsensical and unwarranted. Any comparisons to the one who literally "shook the world" and consistently proved they were "the greatest" is absolutely unfounded and should be discredited immediately. Yes, Chael Sonnen is an excellent fighter and a legitimate threat to beat one of the greatest fighters and athletes of all time in Anderson Silva, but it does not excuse him for being a documented swindler, liar and cheat.
1. Dana White likens Sonnen to Ali: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oq3wl8n_u6E
2. Listen to Chael at 1:53: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-fI7GGX8nM
3. 2001 Results: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_World_Wrestling_Championships
4. Sonnen's felonies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chael_Sonnen
5. Sonnen's admission @ 8:00: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5xcuV27R_8
6. Sonnen on Lance?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_Bbc4pJcKA&feature=endscreen&NR=1
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