Chael P. Sonnen is quite possibly the smartest man in the UFC. Most people know Sonnen as the irreverent, braggadocious fighter who almost unseated Andy Silver before getting caught in a miracle triangle in the fifth round of their first fight. What followed was 2 years of incessant trash-talk culminating in the re-match where Sonnen once again dominated before tripping over himself and being finished with extreme prejudice. To Sonnen’s credit he took the loss stoically, but it must have been a very hard one to deal with.

You see, after losing his second attempt at the title to Anderson Sonnen was left in Rich Franklin territory, the nebulous fighter limbo of a guy who is has come up short twice to the same dominant champion. Ever the company man, Franklin bounced around between weight classes filling in fights whenever the UFC needed a headliner for a foreign show or lackluster card and essentially removing himself from a serious title run in either weight division. Faced with the ignominy of this martial arts purgatory Sonnen decided not to follow the same path and did the smart thing for himself and his brand, declaring a move up to light heavyweight to face Forrest Griffin. It was a brilliant move because but he immediately injected himself into title contention in a shallow weight class desperately needing credible challengers to champion Jon Jones.

The American Gangster from West Linn, Oregon wasted no time talking trash doing everything short of calling Jones a paper champion and last night he ratcheted up the smack talk, RTing fake Jones’s posts declaring Sonnen the superior fighter. It is the same old Sonnen schtick that got him his first two title shots and will get him his next one as well. The LHW division is extremely thin and the hyperactive schedule Jones has been keeping has seen him absolutely run roughshod over all the top challengers to the point where now he is left with unappealing rematches like the Machida fight. Sonnen is a new face to the division and his brand of canned insults and barbs generates interest among the public in watching him get his face rearranged; and now he has a whole new division to pull off the same verbal stunts he’s been employing for the last few years. Rest assured, after he beats Forrest we will most likely see Sonnen fast tracked to a title shot where yes, he will be put in a pine box, but he’ll go there with a hefty sum of PPV money and, assuming he doesn’t suffer any serious injury in the near future, he will be able to trash talk his way into a rematch. Jones certainly seems miffed by him already and Sonnen has been in the division a week. Imagine how far under his skin Chael will get in the next year and a half. Which is really the magic of Chael Sonnen.

For better or worse, mixed martial arts is intrinsically tied to professional wrestling. Sonnen figured that out before anyone else and still seems to be the only guy who understands that trash-talk, even nonsensical, outrageous, trash-talk provides more career opportunities for fighters. Imagine if Jon Fitch had insulted Georges St. Pierre‘s mom after his loss to him. Most likely Fitch would have drawn enough attention to grab another title shot instead of someone like Dan Hardy. Hell, he might have even won and he certainly would have made significantly more money than he did fighting Ben Saunders. And that’s what fighters still don’t seem to understand. The UFC is in the business of promoting fights and it is dramatically easier to promote fights when the fighters involved are engaging in some fashion. Its why we are so often force fed the “these two fighters do NOT LIKE each other Joe” line from Goldberg, rivalries are more compelling. If more fighters would take the onus upon themselves to help promote their own fights they would find that whole new worlds of opportunity become available to them. Just ask Chael Sonnen. Just a few weeks ago he was the “doofus” who fell over and made a complete fool of himself on the biggest stage of his career. Now he is soon to be the next guy who gets he skull-caved in by a Jon Jones elbow…and he’s laughing all the way to the bank.

-Jed

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