07 Sep ‘This is what gangsters do’: Chael Sonnen Explains Why He Chose To Put on ‘Heel’ Persona
Everybody wants to be Batman and not Joker or Superman and not Lex Luthor. Everyone loves heroes, the martyrs, the one that saves the day. Everyone, everybody but Chael Sonnen.
Just recently, the now-retired MMA fighter and undisputed sultan of shit talks, gave an interesting back story on why he chose to play the villain instead of the swashbuckling leading man.
“I got hit with a PED charge and a criminal charge in the same month,” begins Sonnen at the Short Time Wrestling podcast with Jason Bryant. “The whole ‘silly me’ defense is a pretty good one. When you go, ‘Listen, I didn’t know. I didn’t know the rules.’ That works. That’s a good, solid defense. One time. I needed it twice in the same month. So I just knew I was beat. As far as a PR standpoint goes, this is a disaster. Anybody in politics will tell you when there’s a problem you steer into it, so I came out of that mess and I just came out and said, ‘Yeah, I’m a gangster. This is the life. This is what gangsters do.'”
Sonnen was referring to his failed post-fight drug test at UFC 117, where the “American Gangster” made a good account of himself by dominating then-champion Anderson Silva. Not too long after that, Sonnen was charged with money laundering fraud but instead of dimming the Oregon native’s star, his run-ins practically compelled it to burn brighter.
Every ardent follower of the sport with decent enough memory could recall Sonnen’s crazy, cartoonish, and insanely verbose antics began right after Silva practically mopped the whole middleweight division with six straight successful title defenses after dethroning Rich “Ace” Franklin. The UFC was groping around for a “worthy” opponent after Silva essentially did nothing of interest in his last title defense during that time against fellow Brazilian Demian Maia.
And along came Chael Patrick Sonnen.
The then-33 year-old was sporting a respectable, but none too flashy 26-10-1 slate. He was practically a nobody and no one even cared, that is, until he starts talking. Until he started to play a game no mortal was brave enough to try. He began beating, thrashing, and swinging at Silva to everyone who would listen, every chance he gets.
He promised he’ll be the one swinging the hammer. He swore Silva will be the one lying on his back. He claims he can yank Silva out of his hotel room and beat him up anytime he wants. Whether Sonnen wanted the act to be one-time thing or not, the guy knew where he made his mark and went along with it.
“Before I knew it they were making t-shirts that said ‘American Gangster’ on it. It became the No. 2 selling t-shirt of all time for Tapout,” recalled Sonnen. “People just started going into it. I just kept going with it, too. ‘This is nothing. These are just the things I was caught for. You should hear what I got away with.’ I started going really hard into it. Yea, it was a lot of fun and it did turn it around.”
It was truly fun while it lasted for Sonnen and everybody else, for that matter. The hindmost part of his career was never silent and it looks like he plans on keeping it that way now that he’s (forcibly) retired.
To anyone who still wants to be the good guy, the man himself has some words of wisdom.
“If you’re up there competing for popularity, well, everybody wants to be liked. Everyone wants to be patted on the back. Now you’re competing with everybody. If you go to the other end of the pool you can have the water all to yourself.
“I became the biggest heel in MMA and possibly in sports kind of by just swimming down there and saying, ‘Well, I want to be down here.’ If I could do it over again I’d definitely chose the same rout. I might have laid it on a bit thicker at times but I would never go back.”
Will anyone dare tread those dangerous waters? Someone better be.
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