One of the UFC’s most vocal contractors, Chael Sonnen sat down with me to discuss some of the hot topics of the moment. We also took a retrospective look at how far the company has come as we approach the UFC’s 20th anniversary which he will headline when he faces Rashad Evans at UFC 167 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
MM: Am I right in thinking that there was a re-invention of Chael Sonnen. The Chael P Sonnen that we know now is is ever so slightly different from the old Sonnen we met at the beginning of your career. Can you talk me through the old persona and the new one that we’ve come to know and love?
CS: “Well I’ve never felt a difference but I have been asked that question before and I’ve reflected on it. I don’t know whether I agree with it, I don’t feel that I’ve ever changed I hear those things said but my day is the same either way whether my fight career is going well or my fight career is not going well. I get up at the same time everyday. My dog wakes me up to take him outside and walk much earlier than my wife and I like to be awake, our cats then run in and jump on her and we get some coffee going, we watch the news and have some work outs.
My life never changes we do the same things and we have a lot of structure, that happens when you have animals they set your schedule alot. I never know the difference and if somebody asks me a question I’m happy to answer the question, but I’ll answer it honestly and if somebody enjoys listening to that great, if it hurts somebody’s feelings too bad!”
MM: You’ve been in the UFC a long while you’ve seen a lot of changes I’m sure. Do you think there have been changes for the better or do you think think things were better as they were. But first off, just descibe the UFC’s landscape when you came into the company.
CS: “If you don’t evolve you become extinct and in anything whether it’s in business or life in general you have have to throw some stuff at the wall and see what sticks and not every idea is a great one. There is no paradigm that the UFC can copy this has never been done before you cant go to any school or university, you can’t read any book to have the skillset that Dana White has, its all trial and error, theory and application. The vision of where this is headed is really quite remarkable.
The UFC was five to six times a year it was exclusively in America and it was exclsuively in two states its started in Nevada and it quickly trickled to New Jersey. Those were the two fight capitals of the world and of America so that made sense. There was a tremendous value to being a UFC veteran back then it was much like being an Olympian. It really didnt matter if you had a medal from the Olympic games, if you could claim you were an Olympian it’s so rare there was such a prestige attached to being able to say that you did it.
The same thing went with UFC veterens. If a guy was a veteran of the UFC he would always put that next to his name on any poster, on any flyer, on any appearance, on any article he would always put UFC veteran. That’s changed and it doesn’t carry the same weight now that there is so much opportunity the sport has grown so much. We did 32 shows last year we’ll do 38 this year. Within the next 18 months there’ll be a weekly show there’ll be 52 events a year. So there’s just tremendous opportunity that’s changed.
MM: You recently announced that Anderson Silva could be possibly joining you when you coach the next round of the Ultimate Fighter in Brazil. Just unpack for me how that scenario could work?
CS: If Anderson is able to come out and do that he will have his sessions that he will coach and those will be his sessions and we’ll stay out of his way. He’s got a lot to offer. I think those guys tremendously look up to him and I think it’s appropriate that he’s there. If he’s not on my side then he should be there on Wanderlei’s side. He should be present either way.
You can listen to the interview in it’s entirety via the #WHOACAST player below