People give Chael Sonnen a lot of crap. Sometimes, it may be unwarranted. Other times, it’s because he claims to be undefeated, says he’s the middleweight champion, claims Lance Armstrong gave himself cancer, or plans to invade someone’s home, slap their wife on the tush and demand a medium-rare steak. A few times, he’s ridiculed for saying such things, then claiming that he never actually said them at all.
Here at Fightmania, we don’t want to just admonish Mr. Sonnen for his missteps. We also need to give credit where credit is due, and when Sonnen turns down his pro wrestling persona a bit, he sometimes says things that make a lot of sense.
Here are some good examples, presented in no particular order. Why are there only eight of them? Because come on…it’s Chael Sonnen. We’ve only got so much to work with here.
1. “Well-rounded just means that you suck at a lot of things all at once.”
While bluntly put, Chael has a point. When most MMA fans and writers talk about “well-rounded” fighters, what they really mean is “a guy that has no ‘plus’ skills.” In MMA, it has become expected for everybody to have at least a working knowledge in every area of the game. That’s old news, actually, and has been a common storyline used by hack journalists to explain the UFC to people who don’t understand it for ten years now.
The thing is, there are some fighters who are what you would call a jack of all trades, but a master of none. The problem with being such a fighter is that you are always at the mercy of your opponent. When you have okay grappling, okay striking and okay wrestling, you’ll get submitted by BJJ experts, out-struck by elite strikers and taken down relentlessly by former wrestling standouts. Not a good place to be.
2. I don’t seek training advice from actors for the same reason I don’t seek health advice from strippers.”
I actually think Chael is selling strippers a little short here.
I’m sure there’s some lovely young lady working the Spearmint Rhino tonight that knows a lot more about healthy living than an aging actor like Steven Seagal can teach Anderson Silva about MMA.
Look, Seagal had his time. He even has some good Aikido credentials, but let’s be honest. He earned them in a time when traditional martial arts were all about secrecy and posturing. Nobody really knows how good Seagal is, and half of the shit he probably was good at either wouldn’t work in an MMA fight or wouldn’t be legal in one. And pretending that he somehow reinvented the front kick, which is taught in both several traditional martial arts as one of the most basic techniques around? Come on.
3. “There’s an expression that failure is not an option, and that’s a stupid expression. Failure is always an option.”
I love when people point out the stupidity of popular expressions, and I enjoy doing so myself (i.e. “throwing punches with bad intentions”, as if there’s any other way to throw one). Therefore, Sonnen really spoke to me with this one.
As he was getting at, he competes in a sport where one of two competitors is just about always going to get his (or her) ass kicked. MMA is a sport where competitors have to face the reality of failure, even if Sonnen has failed to do so himself in many of his losses.
4. I don’t like the way a lot of these guys talk when it comes to Anderson. They all want to talk about their shot, their shot, their shot. I don’t want a shot. I’ve never asked Dana White for a shot at the title. I want the title; there’s a tremendous difference between my mindset and everybody else’s.”
Sonnen is absolutely correct, although you can argue pretty successfully that a lot of people simply refer to it as a “title shot” because that’s what it’s always been called when you fight the champ, in both MMA and boxing.
Word choice means a lot though, and a lot of fighters do seem to approach title fights as a sort of lottery where they have a chance to do something important, rather than an opportunity to do what they are already to do: be the best. For an example, think of Georges St. Pierre’s mindset the first time he fought Matt Hughes for the welterweight title, as opposed to the second time.
5. “I’m going out there to win. I’m not going out there to be exciting, I’m not going out there to please the fans. I hear fighters talk about that but what they’re really doing is feathering their nests for the fall. I don’t have an exit strategy; I’ve burned the boats. I am 100% in and I will leave there with my hand raised one way or another.”
There’s a lot of truth here, and it’s plain to see that many fighters do worry about entertaining the fans to the point where their career begins to suffer. There are also plenty of instances where one fighter comes to entertain, the other comes to win, and the “entertaining” fighter shrugs afterward and apologizes that he didn’t put on a better fight for the fans.
Like Sonnen, I think that’s a load of crap and that every fighter’s first priority should be to win. I’m not even sure why there’s any question of that, other than the fact that our sport attracts a particularly insane fan base that somehow believes that the men and women who are locked in a cage with other trained professional killers should be not worried about winning (or even survival), but entertaining them personally.
6. “There’s a huge misconception in fighting that there’s something known as ‘the feeling out process.’ The feeling out process is when two boxers go out and neither one is in shape to go ten rounds and they just stand there and look at each other; it’s like an unwritten agreement.”
Tell me you’ve never felt that way when watching two fighters circle one another for several minutes at the beginning of a fight.
I know that laziness is not the only (or perhaps biggest excuse), but the others, such as having “so much respect” for the opponent, don’t sound much different than the timidity that we have recently been raking fighters over the coals for. I’ve seen a handful of fighters (Anderson Silva is the best example) that actually use a feeling-out process to figure out their opponents, and when done properly, it’s a scary thing to behold. It’s as if they are downloading all of their opponent’s movements and thinking processes, then using the information against them.
However, just about everyone else is simply stalling or being indecisive while waiting for their opponent to press the action so they don’t have to.
7. “You cannot ‘retire’ from a sport unless you win a world championship. You only quit.”
If you start a career with a goal, but you don’t reach that goal because you either run out of time, get tired of the grind or feel that you just can’t do what you set out to do, don’t you have to quit?
Sonnen not only makes a great, profound statement that nonetheless should be common sense here, but gives a rare chance to see how he really ticks with this quote. Behind all of the self-promotion, trolling, and everything else, Sonnen is a voracious competitor. That’s the part of him that I think fans connect to the most; it’s a shame that he doesn’t rely more on it and feels the need to resort to the pro wrestling-style antics so much.
8. “Listen, I’m a God-fearing man, go to church every Sunday and have since I was a boy. But if I ever found out that God cared one way or another about a borderline illegal fist-fight on Saturday night, I would be so greatly disappointed that it would make rethink my entire belief system.”
Amen, Chael. Amen.