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Fightweets: Is Chael Sonnen a Hall of Famer?

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Esther Lin

Through the good, the bad, and the ugly, Chael P. Sonnen always had a way of making himself the center of attention.

In this case, Sonnen, who flunked a Nevada Athletic Commission drug test and subsequently announced his retirement, was at the forefront of a week which also happened to include a major judging controversy; a fighter being cut from the UFC for assaulting an official; Invicta moving over to Fight Pass; Bellator making a significant change to its title structure; and oh, by the way, there's a UFC event headlined with a title fight again.

So let's start off with all things Sonnen before we jump into the rest, shall we?

Aftermath of Sonnen's eventful week

@Sigep422wesg: where does "THE BAD GUY" rank in all time category & is he A Guaranteed HOF'er??

Are we talking the UFC Hall of Fame, which is basically the equivalent of a pro sports team's Ring of Honor, or a hypothetical MMA Hall of Fame held to the same standard as the major sports Halls?

If we're talking the latter, no. Is Sonnen a colorful figure? Yes. An enduring fighter with a solid career? Yes. But we're talking about a guy who had three title shots in the UFC and came out 0-3. In addition to the title losses to Anderson Silva (twice) and Jon Jones, he's also lost to Rashad Evans, Demian Maia, Paulo Filho, Jeremy Horn (three times!), Babalu Sobral, Terry Martin, and Forrest Griffin. That's just not Hall of Fame-worthy.

Then there's the fact Sonnen has twice run afoul of testing procedures. Which, incidentally, brings us back to the UFC Hall. There's a guy named Stephan Bonnar in the UFC Hall who has also twice failed drug tests. He was inducted less than a year after his final failure. And Sonnen, with wins over the likes of Shogun Rua, Michael Bisping, and Brian Stann, is certainly more accomplished in the Octagon than Bonnar.

So, has Sonnen had an MMA Hall of Fame career? No. Might he end up in the UFC Hall of Fame anyway? Never say never.

@Auggie85: what will Chael be remembered for? First silva fight? Trash talk? Failed test?

All of the above, and I assume by the time the final story is written, we'll talk about how he retired and came back again, too. (I also suspect he'll end up fighting in Texas, which has a habit of ignoring suspensions honored in the rest of the country. See Margarito, Antonio).

There's no separating any one aspect of Sonnen's complex personality and isolating them from the rest, because its the entire package which made Chael Sonnen who he is. He's survived the sport since the days of the one-night tournament. He's a tenacious competitor who had his heart broken by coming up just short on the biggest stage time after time. He's intelligent. He's an astute analyst.

He can also be a BS artist, the latter of which finally caught up to him. Sonnen will probably return at an opportune time when this blows over, and anyone who says he won't be welcome back with open arms at that time is kidding themselves.

All in all, they broke the mold when they made Chael Sonnen, so there's no point trying to pinpoint any one thing which made him so memorable.

@BigJuice19: How is Chael retiring going to effect UFC175?

It goes from a UFC 92 or 100-type card in terms of there being three fights which could headline pay-per-views on their own, to merely being a card topped by two title fights. Which in and of itself ain't a bad thing. We're still left with an intriguing double main event, featuring Chris Weidman taking on his first non-Silva opponent in two years, one who happens to be attempting to join the short list of fighters trying to win a second weight class title, in Lyoto Machida. And we get Ronda Rousey's latest title defense, against Alexis Davis. Even with CheaterFest 2014 scrapped, it's still the best card we've had in awhile.

Jason High cut from UFC

@TClatch: Do you agree? I don't see how a light push is worse than evading drug tests and testing positive for banned substances?

I saw Jason High's "Push steroids, not referees #noted" tweet a couple days back, and watched everyone nod along in approval. But this is a case of adding up one and one getting three, a weak attempt to conflate two unrelated issues.

Can someone explain to me, if the UFC became lenient on abuse of officials/punching someone after the fight (Paul Daley)/refusing to break a choke (Babalu), how that would in any way solve the UFC's PED issues?

It wouldn't. Most of us had our parents teach us when we were small children that two wrongs don't make a right.

Yes, the UFC has some serious work to do regarding PEDs, because it's clear the commission-based system is close to broken. That still has zero to do with the issue of incidents like High shoving referee Kevin Mulhall. You do not abuse a referee, ever. You do not sucker punch people after the bell. You do not choke people unconscious after the fight's been waved off.

The UFC made the right call here.

Bellator adjusts title-shot system

@TannerRuss2: Did Bellator get the tourney system correct (finally) after the adjustments made for tourney winners?

I think Thursday's Bellator announcement -- in which the company announced that a fighter who has won a tournament and loses a title fight no longer has to go back through the tournament in order to get another title shot in the same division at some point -- was a positive development.

It became painfully apparent over the past year or so that Bellator's format was experiencing major growing pains. Why should someone like Daniel Straus, the winner of 19 of his 20 previous fights, have to go through the gauntlet again, simply because he lost his title in the fifth round to Pat Curran? Especially when Curran was given a rematch without going through a tourney through their rematch clause?

And conversely, staying with featherweight, why should Patricio Pitbull have to keep blasting his way through lesser competition in tournament after tournament?

Bellator's announcement is a solid tweak to the system. There's no point in making veterans who have already been through the tournament meat grinder shave years off the career by doing it over and over. Keep the tournament format for the up-and-comers; they've allowed everyone from Curran to Straus to Michael Chandler to Eddie Alvarez to Ben Askren to Hector Lombard and all down the line make their names here in the U.S., and they can continue to serve this purpose.

This also gives Bellator better matchmaking possibilities, particularly if they plan on running more pay-per-view cards. Of course, this also leads us to the flip side, the potential for abuse of the system. It's not too hard to see tournament winners get strung along, waiting for their title shot as a logjam builds up in their division. But all in all, the potential good in this move outweighs the potential bad.

Invicta to FightPass

@siegp422wesg: Is Invicta and Shannon Knapp making a smart move going on FP instead of a TV deal? How will it benefit Knapp?

Yes. Invicta reliably held quarterly events from April 2012 through July 2013. They've had exactly one card in the 11 months since. You can't pin that all on the UFC raiding divisions; there's still elite talent at atomweight, flyweight, and featherweight, and plenty of room left for up-and-coming talent and bantamweights and strawweights who are looking to get to, or get back to, the UFC.

What would you rather have: Talents like Cyborg Justino, Michelle Waterson, and Barb Honchak sitting on the sidelines forever, or letting them get back to action?

And, what else would you rather have? Invicta's old setup, in which the online feed routinely crashed (and Knapp had to refund people's money), or Fight Pass, which has proven its ability to run smooth live events?

Invicta was looking for a TV deal, and obviously wasn't able to line one up with a top-notch outlet. I suppose Invicta could have gone the AXS TV route, but really, do they want to attach their name to an endless stream of minor-league promotions and got lost in the shuffle along with the MFCs of the world? Better to align with the UFC and take advantage of their marketing muscle.

Of course, the elephant in the room is the idea that somewhere along the way, the UFC will buy Invicta. As much as both sides adamantly deny this will ever happen, it's hard not to think that will be the end game at some point. In the meantime, though, getting a promotion as important to the sport as Invicta back on track is a solid development.

Mighty draw?

@RuckerYeah: Will we ever just talk about Mighty Mouse's fights and not harp on business?

I find the endless fixation on whether flyweights can draw to be one of the most tedious topics on the entire MMA media landscape.

I feel like I'm speaking to the slow kids, at this point, in repeating this over and over: It takes time to build stars in combat. That's true of everyone from Manny Pacquiao to Jon Jones. It took time for the UFC to build the lightweight division. And the featherweight division. And the bantamweight division. Hell, it took many years for the mere concept of Unified Rules MMA to catch on with the mainstream.

So, yeah, Demetrious Johnson vs. Ali Bagautinov at UFC 174 on Saturday probably isn't going to break any buy rate records. Does that mean the UFC isn't even supposed to try? They have to get the ball rolling eventually. They've given DJ plenty of FOX exposure and it is time to roll the dice.

No doubt the cynics will pounce and declare flyweights a failure as soon as the numbers come in, but guess what? Matt Hughes' 2003 welterweight title defense against Sean Sherk drew 35,000 buys. But Hughes beget GSP and made welterweight into a marquee division. Johnson, likewise, is laying the groundwork on which the flyweight division will be built. So instead of pissing and moaning about one night's buy rate, maybe the critics should stop and enjoy that the first UFC flyweight champion is one of the most supreme talents in the entire sport.

British champs

@rznhdad: is there likely to ever be a British champion in the UFC?

Depends. Are you guys ever going to take up wrestling?

Sanchez vs. Pearson

@made_in_laca: Diego 1, and 3

Thanks for checking in, Chris Tellez!

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