Win or Lose vs. Wanderlei Silva, Chael Sonnen's Shtick Is Getting Old

Matthew Ryder@@matthewjryderFeatured ColumnistJune 22, 2017

INGLEWOOD, CA - JANUARY 21:  Chael Sonnen is is checked before he enters the cage for his Bellator MMA light heavyweight fight against Tito Ortiz  (not pictured) at The Forum on January 21, 2017 in Inglewood, California.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Chael Sonnen fights on Saturday, and the whole damn thing is getting pretty old.

All of it.

The flexing, the witticisms that have been in the can for nearly a decade, the proclamations of being undefeated and undisputed without ever holding a belt and racking up 15 professional losses in his career.

It's painful, most of it the product of a bygone era when salesmanship was linked to verbal ingenuity and such ingenuity was lacking so badly in MMA that any amount of colorful wordsmithing was enough to get attention.

And that's what Sonnen did.

He talked. And talked. And talked.

He wrote stuff or had people write stuff, and he delivered it with the precision and polish of an '80s wrestling heel, and it made him rich. When his reinvention started in earnest after a 2009 loss to Demian Maia, most of it was founded on moderately exciting ground-and-pound and majorly exciting trash talk.

People loved it, hated it or loved to hate it, but it got people talking about him, and it was one of the earliest and best examples of how a mixed martial artist gets paid in the sport in modern times.

It got him across from two of the best, and it made him rich in the process. He fought Anderson Silva twice and might be more responsible for the Brazilian's mainstream breakthrough than Silva himself, and he fought Jon Jones entirely by talking his way there—and to the associated pay cheque.

So this isn't about hating on Sonnen. Quite the contrary.

He's a lovable lug in his own way, a guy smirking from one side of his mouth while selling wolf tickets from the other, carnival barking ludicrousness in hopes of separating the average rube from his dollars.

But the shtick is old. It's tired. It's time for some new material.

How about, as an example, a win? Sonnen hasn't posted one of those since 2013.

Granted, some of those years were taken away by failed drug tests and an associated retirement (interestingly one of the few things Sonnen has approached with considerable seriousness in his career) that would still hold a lot more clout than ripping off Superstar Billy Graham to the joy of a collection of media.

Saturday provides a chance for Sonnen to produce that new material.

Bellator: NYC opponent Wanderlei Silva is eminently beatable, a fellow 40-year-old who was never much for defending tireless wrestling and has had his own PED perils over the past few years.

He hasn't done much since he tornadoed Brian Stann into the dirt only a few months before Sonnen scored his last win, and no one is expecting much from his Bellator debut. The fight itself is the attraction, the idea these two will finally throw hands after years of being abstractly tied to one another.

And perhaps that's why Sonnen is as he is.

Chael Sonnen @ChaelSonnen

EMERGENCY WEATHER ALERT for NYC ON 6/24 "HURRICANE SONNEN" will be RAINING DOWN PUNCHES Take shelter Dress appropriately #BellatorNYC

He hasn't provided value inside the cage for an incredibly long time, but he's still a name that looks great in the bright lights of the World’s Most Famous Arena.

All the sass and swagger he manicured for years as a UFC fixture, making him so capable as a podcaster and analyst—areas many would suggest he'd be better off retiring to for good, win or lose against Silva—are still enough to make him rich in the realm of paid fisticuffs.

It doesn't change the fact underscoring all the bluster, though: Chael's shtick is getting old, and without it, there isn't much else to be said about him. 

The hard part might be convincing him of that.


Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder.


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