clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Chael Sonnen on Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor, and how most of the fight game just doesn't understand

The chorus began almost as soon as the fight ended. Swarms of fans and fighters flooding to social media with delight, hailing Nate Diaz's victory over Conor McGregor as Exhibit A why it pays to keep your mouth shut in this volatile game of ours.

Such instant animosity didn't surprise Chael Sonnen. Comeuppance is inevitable when four ounces are all which separates glory from failure. But it was the notion that McGregor somehow made a mistake by talking the way he talked, promoting the way he promoted which gives Sonnen pause, as if McGregor learned a much-needed lesson about staying humble which should be rectified moving forward.

"It's absolutely terrible logic," Sonnen says. "It's terrible logic. You can not know how to promote and hang out in the middle, lose, and still be in the middle; or you can go do what Conor did, lose, and start to be pulled more towards the middle. Your average is still higher. I have no idea where any of that comes from. I went through some of that too, and it's like, so what? So what? If you're going to have some great moments now and there's a fall coming later, so what?

"Guys don't take all that big of a hit. You have a little downtime then you get back on a media tour, create some interest, and you move forward from there. That's just boxing and MMA. Mike Tyson lost to Buster Douglas in the biggest upset in history and went on to have the biggest box office success that sport's ever seen."

Sonnen speaks from experience because he practically wrote the book on how to stomach a spoonful of payback and keep a promotional stock booming. Over a four-year span, he did it time and time again. The Mouth from West Linn's run was supposedly done the night Anderson Silva exacted holy vengeance for years of insults and slights. Ditto after Jon Jones did the same in a swifter fashion. Yet there Sonnen was, headlining the launch of FOX Sports 1 and dipping back into the TUF reserves like nothing ever happened.

It is why when Sonnen hears fans -- and worst of all, his fellow fighters -- saying that McGregor got made into an example about writing checks his bravado couldn't cash, Sonnen can't help but shake his head, because all of those voices are missing the point to begin with.

"It's not real anyway. None of it is real," Sonnen says. "I hear fighters all the time. I heard Bryan Caraway the other day. I like Bryan Caraway a lot, I used to train with him, I consider him a friend. But he did an interview, he was talking about the people on Twitter. I've heard Chris Weidman, a world champion, do it. I heard Jon Jones do it today. ‘People on Twitter,' he goes. But that's not real. What do you mean these people on Twitter? I'm looking around going, what are you talking about? None of this is real. Go out and win the fights you can, then go home to your family and put the goddamn computer down and go be a normal person. It's the strangest thing in the world.

"The bottom line is, this is a business. You have to know what you're doing and guys simply don't. They get bad advice or they don't get any advice at all. I watch these mistakes being made left and right and it's just not true. Will Conor take a hit? Yeah, sure. Conor is an A+ right now if you want to put this in school terms. He's an A+. He might fall to an A, he might fall to an A-, but he's still going to be an A. He will be an A-level star and an A-level draw and it's going to do big numbers.

"That won't last forever, but nobody's career does," Sonnen continued. "Go back to the Mike Tyson example I just gave you. He could fight this weekend on HBO and it's not going to do great things. Everybody's got a window, but Conor is most definitely still within his window and he took on a task that was pretty insurmountable. It's never been attempted before, let alone done successfully ... and he went out there, he fought well, he sold well, he worked his ass off, and he came in second. So what?"

So what, indeed. It is becoming increasingly likely that McGregor doubles down on the formula that made UFC 196 one of the most successful pay-per-views in UFC history, regardless of its outcome. A welterweight non-title rematch between the Irish champion and Diaz is in the works to headline UFC 200.

Belts be damned; this is about a paycheck. Losing streaks are nothing compared to life-changing cash. Besides, even if McGregor falters, Sonnen is confident the loquacious moneyweight will find a way to keep the train rolling, because that's simply what moneyweights do.

"I would like to think [McGregor] understands that his job is to go out there and entertain," Sonnen said. "His job is to work hard and fight as hard as he can, try to build some great memories, and maybe even put a few dollars away for his family. But that's where it ends. That's it. He doesn't owe anybody else anything. But it's a two-way street, the fans don't owe him anything either. Fighters get their feelings hurt because fans jump off (the bandwagon). The fan doesn't owe you any kind of loyalty. You don't owe the fan and the fan doesn't owe you. It's night by night. Go out and entertain them, give them their money's worth and go home, and that's it.

"I've had private conversations with Conor where he said stuff and I've walked away from the conversation thinking, there's a guy who gets it. There's a young man who's years ahead of his time and understands what this is all about. So I don't think Conor is going to fall off the deep end. Now, I don't like his spending habits, but he's a grown man and can do what he wants."

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting