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 411mania » MMA » Columns

Chuck Liddell Needs to Get Over How Chael Sonnen Promotes Fights
Posted by Jack McGee on 04.23.2014

Truth be told, I am a huge Chuck Liddell fan. Not as much as Jeremy Lambert is, but the Iceman was always awesome in my eyes. While people want to talk Fedor, GSP, Ortiz, Shamrock, Shamrock and Anderson Silva, I strongly believe that that Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture's place in the UFC history books is often over looked by fans and company officials. Their participation in the Ultimate Fighter and PPV success is proof that they deserve credit. Liddell knows a thing about being a part of a successful UFC event, as he has been part of NINE UFC PPV EVENTS that broke the 400,000 buys mark.

  • UFC 57 vs. Couture – 400,000
  • UFC 62 vs. Sobral – 500,000
  • UFC 66 vs. Ortiz – 1,050,000
  • UFC 71 vs. Rampage – 675,000
  • UFC 76 vs. Jardine – 475, 000
  • UFC 79 vs. W. Silva – 750,000
  • UFC 88 vs. Evans – 480,000
  • UFC 97 vs. Shogun – 650,000
  • UFC 115 vs. Franklin – 520,000

    UFC 158 through 170 had six events that broke the 400,000 mark. Those events featured Ronda Rousey, Anderson Silva, Chris Weidman, GSP, Jon Jones, Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz and Johnny Hendricks. Silva, GSP, and Diaz are gone; Hendricks and Weidman are unproven and Jones and Rousey have done well, but not blockbuster numbers. Simply put there aren't a ton of legit draws left for the UFC.

    "It's like Chael Sonnen. Chael's a nice guy. I've met him and hung out with him. I like him, and he's a nice guy. I can't stand the way he promotes fights. I understand what he's doing; he wasn't the most exciting fighter, so he made himself exciting by promoting the fight really well, and he got himself a couple of title shots for it. It works, but that whole crazy WWE-type stuff, that over-the-top stuff when you're fighting a guy, doesn't make sense to me, and I don't like it. But it is what it is. Some of the fans like it, and it gets people to watch fights, that's fine." - Chuck Liddell

    Chuck Liddell sold PPVs because he was a dominant champion, holding the title for 770 days and successfully defended it four times. He had the look, the charisma and outside of Tito Ortiz (in the dark days) no one personified the division until the recent run of Jon Jones. Liddell looked like a star, acted like a star, fought like a star and had some cross over appeal. Liddell didn't need theatrics or a "WWE style" persona to succeed. And there is nothing wrong with that because he was being himself, and it worked.

    Enter Chael Sonnen. Chael Sonnen is a good, but not elite fighter. He got into the UFC via the WEC, and lost his first fight to Demian Maia. But after three decision victories over Dan Miller, Yushin Okami and Nate Marquart, he "got in the mix" for a UFC title shot. For better or worse, Sonnen talked his way into a title bout with Anderson Silva. While he took Silva to the limit in a great performance, he lost the fight and most thought that he would go back into obscurity.

    But Sonnen wasn't done, because his act worked. Two more victories and a lot more talking, and Sonnen got a rematch with Silva. This time Silva destroyed him in just two rounds. With the magic of two more wins and even more trash talk, Sonnen took advantage of a Dan Henderson injury and got a coaching spot on the Ultimate Fighter and a title fight with Jon Jones, in a division Sonnen wasn't even fighting in. Jones destroyed him, but Chael Sonnen played the game and played better than anyone else. He got another main event, another PPV payday, and laughed all the way to the bank.

    I am not a fan at all of the "fight" with Wanderlei on the set of TUF Brazil 3, I am also not a fan of how the UFC promoted it after calling it a travesty to the sport, but Chael played the game. He continues to play it better than anyone else, and it works.

    "Some of the things he said, as far as I'm concerned, are over the line. Unless you're known as an actor or being a WWE guy, you can get away with some of that stuff because everybody knows it's fake." - Chuck Liddell

    MMA purists cry to the heavens for "pure sport," but if pure sport worked, then Bellator would be the top company, and the IFL wouldn't have folded. I respect Chuck Liddell as a fighter, I respect and appreciate his views on MMA, and obviously respect his right to not enjoy what Chael Sonnen brings to the game. But the times are changing, and MMA needs what ever it can to draw fans and to make those fans pay for MMA events. People can deny it all they want, but MMA is getting over saturated. There are so many shows that are out there for free, you do not have to buy PPV events these days. I can get all the MMA fix I need between Bellator, WSOF, and the free TV UFC events. Hell, I drop the $10 for Fight Pass, and with that added in, I do not have the burning desire to buy MMA PPV. I still do, but it isn't something I have to do, and over the last year I have skipped more PPV events than I ever did in previous years.

    And it is for that reason that guys like Chael Sonnen have a job, and get top fights. MMA purists want MMA to be a sport, but the fact is that the UFC needs and uses elements of "sports entertainment". They have for years, and quiet honestly they do it better than pro wrestling at times.

    Fact: Brock Lesnar was a box office mega star for the UFC (UFC 81 vs. Mir – 600,000 buys, UFC 87 vs. Herring – 625,000 buys, UFC 91 vs. Couture - 1,010,000 buys, UFC 100 vs. Mir 1.6 million buys, UFC 116 vs. Carwin - 1,160,000 buys, UFC 121 vs. Velasquez - 1,050,000 buys, UFC 141 vs. Overeem – 535,000 buys). While not every event was drawn solely on Lesnar, he was a big part of things. MMA purists wanted to see Lesnar lose and go away, while wrestling fans came along for the ride to see "their guy" succeed. Brock knew his role, he played it well, and it worked.

    I get where Chuck Liddell is coming from, but the times are changing and MMA needs to adapt. The UFC can pretend that over saturation isn't an issue, but when you have Liddell, Couture, Lesnar, GSP, Hughes and Silva it's easy to say. They are all gone now, minus Silva who is in recovery mode and lost two fights in a row, and they have to do what they can to make stars, to make people want to spend money. I hate that Sonnen talked himself into that fight with Jon Jones, but I respect how he did it because he made himself a star.

    The funny this is this. So many of thee MMA fighters love Muhammad Ali. As Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. people generally didn't care all that much about him despite his pedigree that included six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union National Title, and the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics. But have him pattern himself after a pro wrestler, Gorgeous George, and the people ate it up.

    But I guess it's cool because people look at Ali as a legend of combat sports, and Chael Sonnen is just a guy playing the system; playing it better than anyone else, and laughing all the way to the bank…

    Maybe people like Liddell should get over it. Or maybe, since you know, he works for the UFC, can find a way to make other stars "his way."

    Jack McGee is an aspiring investigative journalist with interests covering TV, Movies, Wrestling, MMA and Sports. When not hunting the Incredible Hulk, Jack works on his surfing, his Johnny Utah like throwing motion and origami.


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