PHILADELPHIA -- The truth is, if you look at Chael Sonnen’s history of skewering opponents before a fight, you won’t find many examples. He had things to say about Paulo Filho, particularly heading into the second bout, but the microscope wasn’t on like it was with Anderson Silva, when he made it fairly plain that he wasn’t a fan. But he was completely respectful of Dan Miller, and he was nothing but class leading up to Yushin Okami at UFC 104. The worst he would say about Nate Marquardt ahead of UFC 109 was that it was a “must win” for him. That was more cliché than lambast.
We’ve seen a billion Chael’s since then, or at least seemingly. He says we’ve seen one. One real Sonnen -- the one who will stick to being reverent of his opponent at UFC 136, Brian Stann. He says he hasn’t fallen out of character for any of the aforementioned fights because he was never in character.
“I don’t manufacture conflict,” he told ESPN.com while at a media event in Philadelphia. “I don’t go out and say anything bad about Anderson Silva -- I don’t like Anderson Silva. I made that known, and I make no apology for it. I do like Brian Stann and I’m not going to pretend I don’t. I see guys in this sport continually attempt to imitate me and copy me and to be like me, [but] they get it wrong -- I’m real. What you see is what you get. If I didn’t mean it, I wouldn’t say it.
“When it comes to Brian Stann, when it came to Nate Marquardt, when it came to Yushin Okami … those are great guys and I won’t say otherwise in the attempt to draw attention to myself or to the event. The event has enough attention, I’ve got enough attention, tickets are moving just fine. I’m not in the business of hyping or selling a fight.”
Sonnen’s treatment of Silva ahead if UFC 117 was novel. For one thing, up until then not many people had been irreverent toward the long-time middleweight champion (at least not in public). For another, it was hard to stay up with the Sonnen soundbites while holding your bearings -- he took things to a different level that blurred media senses. He was telling people what they had and hadn’t heard, which is the closest to a Jedi trick we’ve seen in MMA. He contradicted himself with impossible audacity. There were moments when you wondered if Silva really did speak the King’s English, but even an MMA novice suspected that a Nogueira black belt was harder to come by than a Happy Meal toy.
In any case, this split his audience up into love/hate positions with him (often interchangeable, and very close to the same). Against Stann we won’t catch any of that. He likes Stann. He doesn’t like Silva. It’s just that simple.
“Stann’s a stud, and I tried to not get on the docket with him,” he said. “I did everything I could to get an easy fight. I tried to get [Lyoto] Machida to lure into a fight, I tried to get Wanderlei [Silva], I tried to get Anderson. I tried to get every easy fight I could think of, and Joe Silva didn’t like it so he called in the Marines.”