Chael Sonnen stunned the MMA world when he announced recently that he is coming out of retirement to fight for Bellator.
Sonnen, one of the UFC's biggest names and best middleweights, will bring another spark to Bellator, the No. 2 MMA organization in the world.
Sonnen is exactly the kind of showman that will bring flair to Bellator, an organization that has signed several big stars from the UFC, including Rory MacDonald, Phil Davis and Tito Ortiz.
Sonnen, however, will be in a class of his own when it comes to entertainment. That's because Sonnen brings a special charm that you don't often see in the Octagon. You more often see it in the squared circle. Long before Conor McGregor was wowing people with his trash talk, Sonnen was doing the same, building a character and his own MMA brand.
This interview after he submitted Mauricio "Shogun" Rua captures the beauty of his mouth perfectly:
Let's take a look at some of the ways Sonnen has borrowed from professional wrestling to create his MMA character.
5. He Came Out of Retirement
Great professional wrestlers never retire. As they get older, they just take longer and longer in between matches. Like Ric Flair, Terry Funk,Mick Foley and countless other wrestlers, Sonnen has come out of retirement to fight again, looking for one more paycheck. He also craves the spotlight and loves the sport. He can't stay away. Chael probably has at least a couple more come-out-of-retirements moments left in him. He knows that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and it makes for big paydays.
4. Wears Fake Championship Belts
As great as Sonnen is, he has never wore championship gold. Not technically anyway. After he nearly upset Anderson Silva for the middleweight championship, he started wearing a fake UFC championship belt. He was acting like the champion. He came so close to winning the title that he had made himself believe that he was champion. More importantly, he created an impression among the fans that he was champion. It's a time-honored tradition in wrestling. Wear the belt wherever you go, act like a champion, get the fans to take you seriously. He's not the first guy to buy a belt and wear it as a champion either. The Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase made a career out of wearing a fake belt.
3. Constantly Promotes Himself
There's no such thing as humility when it comes to Chael Sonnen. Everything is about him and promoting myself. That's how you make money. In his prime, he talked his way into a championship fight with Jon Jones at light heavyweight, even though he was totally undeserving of a shot. Sonnen has several nicknames, including "The American Gangster" and "The Bad Guy." The latter is ripped off directly from former WWE wrestler Razor Ramon. Sonnen knows the art of building himself up for a financial payoff. That's what professional wrestlers do. People will pay money to see Chael Sonnen LOSE. That's all because of how he talks.
"When you are the greatest fighter in the world, they don’t call you a great fighter. They call you Chael Sonnen. Beat me, if you can.” Chael Sonnen made those comments Jan. 29, 2012, in a post-fight interview on FOX.
2. Cuts Pro Wrestling-Style Promos
Sonnen's post-fight promo with Joe Rogan after he won a close decision over Michael Bisping was legendary, as was his post-fight interview after he submitted Rua. All of Sonnen's promos are borrowed (stolen) from professional wrestlers, guys like "Superstar" Billy Graham, The Grappler and Razor Ramon. After Sonnen defeated Bisping, Rogan tried to ask him a question, and Sonnen responded:
As Enzo would say, "You can't teach that."
1. He speaks to the audience, not MMA fighters
There's insiders and there's outsiders. There's insider baseball and there's entertainment. Sonnen knows that money is not with the hardcore MMA audience. They are going to watch MMA no matter what. The money is in bringing in new people. Nobody likes a corporate lapdog and Sonnen is far from that. He has a fan's mentality, even though at one time, he was one of the top fighters in the sport. If fans believe that you believe what you're saying, they will cheer you or boo you. They will care about you. You could be the greatest fighter on the planet, someone like Demetrious Johnson, and if you don't connect with your audience, you won't drive PPVs. Check out what Sonnen once said about fighters who thank God after they compete.
Yes, Chael Sonnen is coming to Bellator, he MMA fighter and the pro wrestler. We can't wait.