We all laugh at what Chael Sonnen says. We laugh because of how ridiculous some—or perhaps, most—of it is. Whether he actually believes the things that come out of his mouth is another thing entirely. However, it seems that even if he doesn’t believe what he says, he may have convinced others to believe.

If betting lines for Sonnen’s fight with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua show anything, it’s that the ability to trash-talk takes precedence over skill and a fighter’s history of wins and losses.

Sonnen hasn’t won at light heavyweight since before I entered high school and has only competed once in the division since 2005. That one fight at light heavyweight was a colossal dismantling at the hands of light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. It was a fight that Sonnen earned more for his talk and bravado than his actual skills in the cage.

It’s undeniable that Sonnen is a great draw. Any time you have Sonnen on a pay-per-view, or any card for that matter, you’re due for a good sell.

Sonnen has the trash talk to engage the fans that remember the days of WWF (long before it became the WWE) when they were in middle school watching “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan. There is a huge difference though—MMA is real, and no matter how much we try to pretend that his trash talk makes him deserving of fights with top light heavyweights, the fact remains that he shouldn’t be a favorite in those fights simply because of his own self-promotion.

Rua is a former UFC light heavyweight champion. For him to be the underdog against someone who hasn’t won as a 205-pounder in many, many moons is ludicrous. As I write this, Sonnen is a -130 favorite in this fight against Rua, with some sites going as far as -170. Rua—a man who has won the light heavyweight title and beaten some of the best light heavyweights in the world since Sonnen’s last light heavyweight win—is a +116 with some sites listing him at a +144. I don’t know about anybody else, but it seems as if there’s some money to be made there.

I can’t sit here and trumpet Sonnen as a viable top contender in the light heavyweight division. What made him the best at middleweight was his ability to take his opponents down and beat them on the ground. Now, facing much larger opponents who in turn are accustomed to fighting opponents much larger than Sonnen, Sonnen’s game plan is largely negated.

Rua has faced the likes of Dan Henderson, a skilled wrestler. He has also faced the biggest guys in his division, including Jones and Alexander Gustafsson. There is no reason to have a fighter who has faced the best in his division for the majority of his career—seriously, look at Rua’s fight history—appear in betting lines as the underdog to the man who has had two straight losses spanning two divisions, even if those losses came against champions in championship bouts.

And therein lies my point. Sonnen has endeared himself to fans through his use of trash talk and bravado. The fans eat up his every word. They start believing the hype. They hear him say that he is the best fighter on the planet and they believe, because he’s funny and he can rhyme. They start drinking the kool-aid, in other words.

Then those fans go out, bet on him and make Sonnen the favorite. Fans don’t realize that Sonnen’s last three losses—arguably the three most heavily Sonnen trash-talk-hyped fights in his career—have all ended with finishes. Not only that, but the last two fights, against Jones and UFC middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva, have been humiliating disasters for Sonnen where he put up little to no fight.

Sonnen’s trash talk is entertaining, and most of the stuff Sonnen says coaxes a laugh out of me. But I’m not about to overlook his fight history and his recent performances and bet on him purely because he can put on funny glasses and insult a nation.

Sonnen is the UFC’s heel. That has helped him earn title shots and talk his way into big marquee fights. If that is how you make your living, fine by me. It’s a smart move and helps prolong your career, and the money that comes with it certainly doesn’t hurt either. But fans shouldn’t be so quick to bet on Sonnen because he has a better arsenal of insults.

Calling Jones and Silva fake champions and phonies can only get you so far. Unfortunately for Sonnen, it doesn’t mean anything when once he enters that cage. Jones and Silva have proven that.

Sonnen is a fan favorite and is well-known because of his words. What I say may fall on deaf ears, but just look at his career and his history at light heavyweight and you’ll see the brash words are just that, words. They don’t make Sonnen a better fighter. They don’t make him punch harder or make him more successful at takedowns. They make Sonnen successful at selling his fights and selling his brand. However, people shouldn’t be sold on Sonnen as a favorite.

It’s time to stop drinking the kool-aid.

Photo: Chael Sonnen (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Sal DeRose
Staff Writer

Sal hails from New Jersey and is currently training for his first MMA fight. He hopes to use his knowledge and insight to generate articles that interest and entertain you. Outside of MMA, Sal is a big fan of every other sport. He's a diehard New York sports fan, with the exception of cheering for the Packers.