For some time Chael Sonnen has infamously been waging a largely one-sided war-of-words with his rival and current middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Every time he makes an appearance, whether on television, in the press or on Twitter Sonnen appears to have to have some fresh mud to sling in the direction of the fighter who’s widely considered to be the No.1 pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world.
For example, after Silva’s latest emphatic win over Yushin Okami, Sonnen patronizingly noted, “We call Andy “champ” like we call developmentally disabled animals “champ.” Good boy, Andy, good boy!”
Other soundbytes from Sonnen on the champion over the past 18 months include, “He’s not a great striker.”, “He hasn’t put up a fight since Forrest Griffin, which is about as notable as getting your hand held by a stripper,” and, “That guy’s no more the top fighter out there than Bigfoot is roaming the wood.”
So does Sonnen really believe this or is he just trolling everyone in an attempt to gain notoriety?
Well, if his latest appearance as an analyst on ESPN’s MMA Live show on Friday night is anything to go by then it’s the latter.
Despite his recent, well-publicized troubles, which have included being suspended for steriods and receiving a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to money laundering charges, ESPN have seen fit to place him alongside host Jon Anik for the past two weeks running.
Sonnen has seized the moment, almost entirely dispensing with his standard UFC persona in favor of something far more professional, sincere, and, dare we say, truthful?
“The bottom line – Anderson Silva did an awesome job,” Sonnen said in his assessment of ‘The Spider’s’ performance at UFC 134 in Rio last weekend. “He continues with his dominance. He’s such a good striker. And what he’s really good at is keeping guys at range and having guys fight his fight, and he showed it again.”
He was also critical of Okami who he had helped to train in preparation for the bout.
“He just didn’t bring the tools that he has with him. He went out there, he let Anderson dictate the pace, and Anderson looked fantastic.”
Jon Anik then tested just how much he could get Sonnen to admit on national TV by asking him if his rival was the best in the business.
“I’m not ready to say he’s the best ever,” Sonnen said before conceding, “but he’s certainly special.”
There were flashes of the “old” Chael though, such as when he was asked who Silva can beat.
“For me personally it comes down to this – if you want the job done right, apparently I’m going to have to go out and do it myself.”
And Sonnen feels he does have the blueprint on how to beat the Brazilian, noting that too many fighters are in awe of his skills when they climb into the Octagon with him.
“When he drops his hands and mocks you, that’s when he’s getting ready – that’s his set-up. So you gotta make him restart. Either take a couple steps backwards [and] make him come to you, or charge him, but you’ve gotta reset him. That’s when he’s starting to get his footwork down.”
So there we have it, at last Sonnen has dispensed with the theatrics and let everyone know what he really thinks. Of course if he does get past Brian Stann at UFC 136 in October and gets his rematch with Silva then normal service will unquestionably be resumed!
As a more general point, while I’m not always a fan of what Sonnen has to say for himself I must say that overall he did a very good job in his analyst role on the show. Articulate, engaging and knowledgeable, it’s easy to see why ESPN have been willing to forgive his past transgressions and bring him into the studio.