Opening Round: The Chael Show

Chael Sonnen’s microphone antics have drawn comparisons in the past to those often seen in professional wrestling, an opinion reinforced this past weekend when the UFC middleweight challenged 185-pound champion Anderson Silva to a fight including a stipulation making it akin to a “loser leaves town” bout.

Despite his promo-like prose inducing a chuckle or two, in a sport still seeking mainstream legitimacy is it possible Sonnen’s behavior actually be a bad thing? Could it blur the lines between athletic competition and scripted stunts to the point average fans are turned off by the possibility of predetermined outcomes?

I don’t think so on either front.

There’s a reason the UFC has pretty lights, entrance music, hot girls, and slick production. Entertainment is as equally important as competitive endeavor when it comes to every major sport. Athletes with big personalities who market themselves are inherently more interesting to watch whether because you’re a fan or you want to see their heads get ripped off, figuratively of course.

Sonnen’s smack-talk is little more than his way of upping the entertainment ante in MMA. Anyone with the slightest hint of intelligence should be able to tell he’s fully aware of what he’s doing. He rehashes similar lines over and over to make them stick in the public’s collective conscience; he poses for cameras after providing rehearsed bits.

As far as it confusing people who only expect over-the-top behavior when they tune into WWE, there is no way to convincingly fake the things that go on in MMA. Certain positions, yes. Three-inch gashes? No. Face-rippling headkick knockouts? No. The list goes on and on.

My honest opinion is that MORE fighters need to adopt Sonnen’s strategy, at least on some level. Showing personality, no matter how obnoxious, is better than saying the same things 90% of your peers recite when asked similar questions. Be Donald Cerrone whose black hat and country living have become immediately identifiable symbols of the up-and-coming lightweight some fans can even relate to. Be Jason Miller whose red-streaked hair and humorous stylings have won him a legion of fans and had him on MTV2 long before Bellator and a spot as an Ultimate Fighter coach without fighting in the promotion for years. Be Tito Ortiz who has clung on to relevance with a subpar record over the past few years by being himself except dialed up a notch.

Be Chael Sonnen.

What do you think about the subject on today’s “Opening Round”? Tell us on our Twitter account (@mmatraining)!

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