Have you heard the one about the Brazilian who tries to feed a carrot to a bus? Well, if you pay an ounce of attention to the mostly nonsensical, yet sometimes witty mumbo jumbo that comes out of middleweight title challenger Chael Sonnen’s mouth, this one is probably old news to you.

Though many criticize the Team Quest mainstay for his outlandish comments, as well as his issues away from the cage, Sonnen may be a blessing in disguise for the rapidly growing sport.

By this point you’re probably on the verge of lumping me in the same category of “crazy” that you’ve thrown Sonnen into, but let me explain this philosophy to you.

Yes, the 35-year-old West Linn, Ore., native has been suspended for a year due to ridiculously high levels of testosterone after his first go-around with Anderson Silva. He also narrowly escaped the confines of an eight by ten cell due to a money laundering charge stemming from his real estate business. But somewhere in there lies the workings of a genius.

The “American Gangsta” is a Division I wrestler out of the University of Oregon—wrestlers don’t typically produce exciting fights—and Sonnen is an amazing wrestler. His stand-up is decent, and his ground game is atrocious. He’s fought 39 times professionally with nearly half of those going to decision, and more than half of his victories have come the same way. He’s been submitted eight times, four by the same choke. Does that sound like the resume of a guy that garners more attention than anyone else in his sport?

Yet, he somehow finds himself in the main event of the biggest fight of the year in one of the biggest sporting events of the summer—mind you this is an Olympic year.

Let’s start with his feud with Silva, as this is primarily where the outspoken trash-talk master began. Before his first bout with Silva at UFC 117, Sonnen was a relative unknown. He’d put together a few impressive wins and earned his title shot, but the casual fan would certainly not have known who he was.

The trash talk has been exactly that. He’s spoken so much that he’s actually gotten the typically reserved and soft-spoken Silva to come out of his shell and fire back. Silva has gone as far as to say he’s “going to beat him the way his parents should have.” That’s a side of the middleweight champ that’s never been seen, and the fact that Sonnen pulled that out of him just gave this fight that much more hype.

Maybe the persona portrayed by Sonnen coincided with the money laundering charge and the now blatantly obvious fact that his career in politics would never materialize—only Sonnen knows that. Nonetheless, the verbal tirade that he’s embarked upon has not only brought international attention to him, but had it not been for Silva’s shoulder injury, and his own suspension, it would’ve gotten him a significantly faster rematch.

When guys can talk the way Sonnen does, people want to see them. It’s really no different than Brock Lesnar. Whether you love him or hate him, you want to watch him. People wanting to see Sonnen equals money for the UFC, and lots of it. Saturday night’s card has gone through a major overhaul since first being announced, yet you’d never know it with the hype surrounding it. You can ultimately thank the title challenger for that.

In addition to the “crazy” talk, you now have to wonder how crazy he really is. Remember when he said Silva was scared of him, that he hadn’t signed the contract to fight him, and everyone laughed and thought he’d finally lost it? Why would a guy like Silva, arguably the greatest mixed martial artist the world has ever seen, be afraid to fight an over-hyped lunatic?

Well, in a recently published story, Dana White confirmed that when Sonnen got on the plane to Brazil for the press conference, Silva hadn’t signed the contract. In fact, it took the boss three hours—causing the press conference to be delayed—to talk the champ into the rematch.

Maybe there is more truth than anyone truly realizes behind the rants.

To go one step further, the University of Oregon alum is clearly an incredibly intelligent individual. Regardless of the nonsense that is often coming out of his mouth, anyone that is able to talk the way he does, often times on the spot, is a smart man. Sonnen created the “American Gangsta” persona and has been taking his check to the bank ever since.

For those that haven’t had a chance to meet the man personally, the first taste of the softer side was displayed on UFC Primetime. Long time Team Quest head coach Scott McQuary made his surprise return to the gym after suffering a heart attack. Sonnen was clearly inspired by this, and the emotion he displayed while talking about his coach during the episode was evident. He goes on to talk about heart and how he needs the belt. He’s passionate about his craft, and there may be nothing more appealing about an athlete than one who simply has heart and passion.

For those who have gotten the chance to meet him, you know he’s polite, articulate and honest. When you wish him well in an upcoming fight he stops, looks you in the eye and thanks you sincerely. In a sport full of guys from all kinds of different backgrounds, you’re bound to find people that run the spectrum in terms of personality. Sonnen is certainly one of the most sincere men in the game.

So yes, he speaks a lot of ridiculousness, he has an entire country that hates him, and he carries a fake belt around with him to press conferences. But, the man who calls himself “The American Gangsta” is the same man who may just transcend the sport.

Photo: Chael Sonnen (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Paige Berger

Relatively new to the sport of MMA, Paige is a life long athlete. She attended the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, N.Y., where she was a pioneer member of the women's ice hockey program. She also excelled in softball and soccer before deciding to focus on hockey. Born and raised in New York, she is an avid Yankees fan. Currently residing in Las Vegas, a move she made after falling in love with MMA while training at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., she is currently studying public relations and advertising at UNLV.