It’s hard to find a fighter in the short history of MMA that has rubbed fans the wrong way like Chael Sonnen has. A mediocre MMA fighter at best in his WEC days, Sonnen made a name for himself with his antics leading up to his UFC 117 fight against middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Sonnen solidified his status as a popular figure in the sport, surprisingly taking Silva down at will and outwrestling the champ. Sonnen, a well known critic of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu eventually succumbed to a triangle/armbar combination in the final round of the MMA fight.
News that Sonnen tested positive for PED’s turned many MMA fans against him after UFC 117, yet Sonnen remained defiant, seemingly willing to go after anybody in the sport.
While I’m not the biggest Sonnen fan in the world, it’s hard not to give Sonnen credit for his marketing savvy. Anytime I hear Sonnen go on one of his ridiculous rants, undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather always comes to mind.
Sonnen like Mayweather has figured out how financially rewarding hate can be especially in today’s social climate. Mayweather has been one of boxing’s few life lines in the past several years, bringing the sport back to life every time he competes.
Fans don’t shell out money every time Mayweather fights because they want to support boxing or enjoy a good fight; they order the fight because they would love to see Mayweather get smashed. That marketing strategy has brought Mayweather some of the biggest purses in the history of combat sports.
Hate also worked well for the NBA during the 2010/11 season. The league enjoyed a financially rewarding year, thanks to the hatred of LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
Like others, Sonnen has also figured out that being a villain is arguably the best role in sports. It’s rather obvious Sonnen’s recent attacks on Brazilians, multiple people with the last name Silva (besides UFC matchmaker Joe Silva), and everyone different from him, is nothing different from Floyd Mayweather talking trash before a fight. As long as Sonnen backs up his words inside the Octagon, he has the potential to become the biggest draw in MMA.