Why MMA Needs Chael Sonnen More Than Sonnen Needs MMA

| April 24, 2013 | 9:16 am | Reply

Chael SonnenSaturday night in Newark, NJ the UFC will host one of the most anticipated events of 2013. It will see title challenger Chael Sonnen take the light-heavyweight division’s most dominant champion in years, Jon Jones.

In a sense, it’s a true David vs. Goliath affair. Although the challenger is a 6-to-1 underdog, it’s likely the 36-year-old’s verbal abilities that make that number less than double digits.

As is the case with most coach vs coach battles at the conclusion of a season of The Ultimate Fighter, this bout has a bit more hype behind it as viewers have had 16 weeks of anticipation to build up their excitement.

Chael Sonnen is a marketing genius, which has aided the build-up tremendously. The skills he lacks inside the Octagon, he more than makes up for with his mouth. In a sport that typically leaves its participant’s brain looking more like scrambled eggs than it does at genius levels, the now three-time title challenger defies the norm.

It is for that very reason that MMA needs the self-proclaimed “People’s Champ” more than he needs MMA.

The Ultimate Fighter 17 Jon Jones and Chael SonnenJones has been the kingpin of the division for more than two years, in his tenure he’s done little to nothing to promote his fights, yet he complains about pay-per-view buys for his fights not being high enough. In addition to the lack of promotion, he’s been arrested for a DUI, and turned down a short notice fight with Sonnen leading to the first event cancellation in the Zuffa era of the UFC.

Conversely, “Bones’” combatant on Saturday night has more or less made his career through his promotional skills. Promotion is free advertisement for the company. A company the size of Zuffa likely spends millions on advertising for each event – you’ve got TV, radio, billboards and social media campaigns that are run in effort to get their message out, in hope that viewers tune in. The MMA market is saturated, the UFC alone puts on more than 30 events per calendar year. Thus, they need something to make each event special, or the cash cow that is the promotion’s pay-per-view events wouldn’t be successful.

At this point most fans have seen the new commercial for UFC 159 where Sonnen is sitting on a couch declaring himself “the greatest fighter in the world today.” This wasn’t part of the UFC’s promotional plan, it was the genius of Sonnen sitting at home on his couch cutting a free promo for his employer. The UFC then turned around and made that the basis of the new advertisement.

Sonnen sells his fights, plain and simple. The proof is in the pudding, and UFC president Dana White has confirmed that he’s one of the top five pay-per-view draws in the company. In the last three years, he has won two fights. That doesn’t sound like the makings of a pay-per-view giant, but there he is, and the UFC relies on him. There is no one in the game better at promotion, and for that reason, Sonnen is more valuable to the sport than the sport is to him.

Whenever it is that the University of Oregon alum decides to hang up his gloves for good, and let’s be honest, at 36-years-old that day is bound to be sooner than later, he will have a job waiting for him. He’s already a mainstay on the Fox broadcasts, he hosts UFC tonight on Fuel, and I’m sure, upon retirement, he’ll find himself as host of his own show on one of the Fox owned stations.

In addition to his promotional ability, he showed his softer side this season on TUF. His heart to heart with Uriah Hall was something that touched everyone, athlete or not. As a member of Team Quest, Sonnen has had a plethora of great coaches, but he may prove to be the best of them all, and without question the best coach in the show’s 17 season history.

In the end, there is no denying his value to his craft. Promotional skills aside, he shows up every night. He leaves his heart and soul inside the cage, and because of this, his options are limitless.

Does MMA Needs Chael Sonnen More Than he Needs MMA?

Tags: , , , , ,

Category: Exclusive, Featured, MMA, UFC, Ultimate Fighter

About the Author ()

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.