The PR of Chael Sonnen

April 27, 2013

For MMA fans the thought of professional wrestling is beyond comparison with the real sport of the UFC.  Yet, if you want to see pro wrestling in MMA, you need only look to Chael Sonnen.

Anderson Silva you absolutely suck.” – Chael Sonnen post-fight Octagon interview at UFC 136.

In my opinion, the best start to a promo in UFC History with GSP’s admonishment of Matt Hughes: “I’m not impressed by your performance,” coming in second. Sonnen liberally uses old school pro wrestling microphone techniques to add a unique spin to get his point across.

While we may scoff at Sonnen’s antics, his brash, trash-talk has grabbed himself headlines and main events.  How is it that Sonnen was on the short list of fighters sought to replace an injured Dan Henderson at UFC 151?  At that time, Sonnen was competing in the Middleweight division.  He was chosen (after Lyoto Machida) because the UFC knew he was reliable to sell the fight.

When Jones passed on taking the match with Sonnen, UFC 151 was off and Jones and Greg Jackson took the brunt of the blame for the cancellation.  Sonnen took to social media to call out Jones and rail on the champ.  Seeing this as an opportunity, the UFC put Jones and Sonnen together as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter.  Hoping for the social media beef to continue on television, the adversaries actually became friends on the show.  As a result, the ratings did not do as well as expected. Thus, no momentum was gained from the show to the fight.  Yet, Sonnen has picked up the banter for UFC 159.

Sonnen has done the media rounds from The Jim Rome Show to ESPN. He’s bragged, he’s boasted, he claims to be making $10 million in the Jon Jones fight.  Is it because of the delivery that no one seems to challenge Sonnen on his proclamations?

He’s helped promote this fight despite receiving little assistance from the champion.  But then again, does the one man sound-bite need a partner?

Sonnen’s unabashed mouth has paid dividends for his career.  He will eventually become a full-time talking head for the UFC…and will be the best at doing that job.  He looks the part on the set of UFC Tonight of television anchorman.  He’s composed, articulate and even if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, it sounds like he does.


While there have been claims that Sonnen may use inferences of race in promoting himself to subtly remind people that he is white and his opponent is not, it is hard to verify the truth or falsity of the claim.  Old school pro wrestling is known for racial insensitivities (YouTube any wrestling promotion in the 1970s-80s…90s…) and you will find the divide between good and bad may be based just on that.  We’re not saying this may be the cause for the inferences of race, but its a possibility.  But, the defense or the accusations of race baiting are set aside here. The purpose is to address the promotion ability of Sonnen.

In the end, will Sonnen sell pay per views as he claims he will?  Let’s take a look from when he first had the chance to get an extended amount of time in front of a microphone – his fight at UFC 117 with Anderson Silva.

UFC 117: Sonnen-Silva I – 600,000 PPV Buys

UFC 136:  Sonnen-Stann – 225,000 PPV Buys

UFC 148:  Sonnen-Silva II – 925,000 PPV Buys

This does not include Sonnen’s fight with Michael Bisping at UFC on Fox 2 in January 2012.  Still, Sonnen sold UFC 117 almost all by himself.  He put the heat on Silva and almost pulled off the upset. I suggest watching the documentary “Like Water” to see that fight from Silva’s perspective.  Silva did assist in providing some heat to the rematch at 148.  Yet, Sonnen was still the center of attention.

However, UFC 136 seemed like an anomaly.   It marked the return of Sonnen from suspension.  It was headlined by Maynard-Edgar and Aldo-Florian yet only received 225,000 buys. UFC 159 should do well because of Sonnen’s constant sell for the fight and Jones’ ability to fight.

Do people tire of Sonnen’s gimmick?  Yes.  Will people stop watching him because of it?  Probably not.  Sonnen’s tactics in promoting fights are questionable but one thing is certain, he makes his presence known and tries his best to make you take notice.

7 Responses to “The PR of Chael Sonnen”

  1. BrainSmasher on April 27th, 2013 3:50 AM

    Why does people always try to give Pro Wrestling credit for everything? I see this a lot. Pro Wrestling isn’t the originator of anything. They steal every concept they have from somewhere else. I must ask. What makes Chaels comments so much like pro wrestling rather than someone just picking a fight and talking trash that men have been doing since the dawn of time? I have been in fights in the street. I talked all kinds of trash before and after. Some of what I said was true most wasn’t. The point was to anger them and beat them mentally. That is what Chael does.

    The big difference here is consequence. Pro wrestling has comments script with both parties involved to simulate two guys have a real dispute. There is an understanding and each knows there is no consequence. That is t the case with Chael. Whether he means what he says or not. He says it fully expecting to ha e to back it up. The other guy isn’t “in on it”. What he says he real repercussions just like you talking shit in the street. This is why Anderson shoulder struck his at weigh ins, Wandy threatened him in a van, Vitor was angry at him, Bisping was mad at him, and even Cro Cop was pissed at him. This makes what he does nothing like pro wrestling and exactly what pro wrestling tries to emulate. It is the only reason why what he does does t bother me. I don’t like pro wrestling because it is fake. Chael is fully willing to take an ass kicking for what he says and he isn’t going back stage and asking his opponent if it’s ok either. That makes it real. Some opponents see it as promoting and don’t take it serious and that is fine. That is up to them. Chael does it to being out the best in him and the worst in his opponent. He likes having the pressure on him.

  2. Sampson Simpson on April 27th, 2013 11:23 AM

    BS = 5 year old mentality

  3. BrainSmasher on April 27th, 2013 2:42 PM

    Beats being a simpleton who thinks a one dimensional sport like Boxing is a “sweet science”. I can tell by your ignorant posts that 2 people punching each other in the face over and over is as scientific as you get!

  4. BrainSmasher on April 27th, 2013 2:59 PM

    People forget Chael has a Sociology degree. He knows how people think and how they can be manipulated. That is why he says some of the off the way stuff he does. He knows it will entertain and humor some and anger others. Pro Wrestlers use this too when they play a heel. Chael is using Psychology, not pro wrestling. There is a large group of people who are very gullible and believe everything he says. Even if you cant believe anyone would not see right through it they still believe it. Like when he said he didn’t know Tapping ended the fight. Tons of people took him serious and was calling him an idiot for not knowing the rules. Oblivious that he has been submitted many times already and tapped out. In fact the thing that made me like Chael is how he pissed everyone off. Im not a fan of his fighting style. But I loved watching him play puppet master. Then you realize he is just smarter than everyone else.

    People have tried to pull off Pro Wrestling in MMA before and it turns people away. It always comes off contrived. It works for Chael because it is a real personality he gets into and its real to him and many others. Lots of fighters have a different fight mentality they get into.

  5. Jose on April 27th, 2013 4:55 PM

    Chael has backed off his trash talk massively for this fight.
    The reason is because the left-wing media started calling him racist (deadspin is just the latest) for criticizing black fighters, but being nice to the white war hero fighter Brian Stann.
    Chael realizes his fighting career is near the end and his paycheck going forward will come from being a talking head. So he knew he had to quickly squelched the racism whining from the left. Chael being an open Republican also gave the Left a reason to launch their false, vicious racism attack.
    So he’s gone out of his way to say nice things about Jones.

    Some people think he’s playing mind games. But it’s nothing that devious. Chael is trying to protect his future income stream as a talking head. Nothing will get a white talking head kicked off TV faster than being called a racist. Racism from non-whites is much more tolerated (like Cain Velasquez super racist Brown Pride tattoo).

    Chael is a smart man. He adjusted.

  6. BrainSmasher on April 27th, 2013 9:12 PM

    Anyone who things he is being racist is a moron. He talked massive shit about CroCop. So he talked trash to Rampage and Silva and Jones. Big deal. He talked just as bad about Vitor, wandy, Shogun, and the Nogs. Which im sure those sources lumped in as being black when they are not. He wasn’t typical Chael A game verses Bisping but he still talked a lot leading up to that fight. The lone exception is the Stann fight where he would have looked really bad insulting him. But he still did a lot of talked but it wasn’t direct at Stann. Fact is Chael talked shit to anyone with a fanbase. Stann and Bisping do not have one and are poor draws. Everyone he talked about had a large fan base.

    Lets remember. If Chael was a big racist. Why would he have let Okami come and stay with his own mother? Racist tend to not like any race or nationality. All the fighters who meet him have nothing but good things to say. This is why I don’t go to sites like that who say all kinds of stuff with no merit. The same article calls him a “state-chastised steroid user”. Chael was never “chastised” for using steroids. Just cheap blog tabloid trash. Posts on sherdog forums are more credible than that. Both are just fans letting their emotion control them while they make up stuff.

  7. King Shadrock on April 28th, 2013 11:11 PM

    Chael Sonnen is playing it smart, better make that money while it’s there, if he need to use that big mouth of his, why not, that remind me of Koscheck. About his so call racial comments, well, if the cap fit, let him wear it.

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