Chael Sonnen is all-in on the would-be battle of the billionaires.
“The American Gangster” is well versed in the ingredients that make for a blockbuster pay-per-view, dating all the way back to his two-fight spectacular with UFC Hall of Famer Anderson Silva. And Sonnen is confident that if Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and UFC President Dana White are all serious about staging a Zuckerberg vs. Musk fight on the UFC’s platform, it will become the highest-grossing pay-per-view in the history of fight promotion.
“You could for sure do 10 million-plus [pay-per-view buys],” Sonnen said Monday on The MMA Hour. “But you could be closer to 20 and 25 [million pay-per-view buys], because what I would predict is both of their companies would start some kind of a digital arm. So all of a sudden, I believe that Twitter would be hosting pay-per-views, and I believe Facebook would, as well. Now you’re talking 25 million views here. That’s insane, what I just said. You could do that if the business shifted and changed a little bit. Sure you could.”
The chatter between Zuckerberg and Musk gained steam this past week after the Musk challenged the Meta CEO to a “cage match” on social media. Zuckerberg quickly accepted, channeling Khabib Nurmagomedov with a simple response: “Send me location.” White immediately jumped into the fray and threw the UFC’s backing behind the potential bout.
Sonnen views that as a brilliant move by the UFC boss.
“The fact that one billionaire wants to fight another billionaire and somebody will call a third billionaire for permission — like, I don’t really know where that comes from, but I’ve got to give Dana credit here,” Sonnen said. “There’s no other promoter that can even come to the table now. It’d be weird. Those two either fight in UFC or they don’t fight at all, I think we can agree on that. And that really was a strategic move by Dana.
“I mean, they could film this on their iPhone, they could put it on Twitter, they could put it on Instagram, they could put it on Facebook. Wow, what a thought. And it’s one of these things where, ‘No, we’re going to go here and do it.’
“They don’t need Dana. They didn’t need permission. They didn’t need this third party. They could do it on their [platforms] and it would be — if there’s 6 billion people on Earth like they speculate, 5.5 billion would see that fight, right? Just through their platforms. So I just share that with you, that if it is something fun and he has an opportunity and he wants to bring it to us, it’d be very nice of Dana. It would be rude of him to not bring it to us.”
White’s enthusiasm has not dimmed since. He recently predicted the matchup would be “the biggest fight in the history of the world” and espoused how serious both men would take it, touting Zuckerberg’s passion for Brazilian jiu-jitsu and fandom for MMA.
White has faced criticism for his eagerness to get involved with an obvious circus fight between two middle-aged tech CEOs with no backgrounds in professional fighting, especially given his recent comments about how the UFC doesn’t do “gimmick” matches when asked about former heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou’s desire to box a major heavyweight star.
However, at least in this situation, Sonnen gives White a pass.
“I am extremely interested in it,” Sonnen said. “I’m interested from a standpoint of being silly. We get to have fun in the UFC about every 10 years. Dana White is extremely stuck in his [ways] — I mean, we didn’t used to get to do champ-champ. We didn’t used to get to see women fight. There was a very stuck-in policy. And about every 10 years, we would get a James Toney or we’ll get a CM Punk. We could have fun.
“Not very often. We get serious business and the integrity of the sport, but every now and then, we get to have fun. We get to see a Conor [McGregor] versus Floyd [Mayweather Jr.]. And we’re at that point. We’re at that, you know, X amount of time has gone by, and we’re about to have some fun. So yeah, I’m interested in it. I’m very interested in it.”
“I would tell people, ‘I don’t rob banks,’ but I have robbed a bank before,” he continued. “And all I mean by that is, like, in a broad stroke — four banks, five banks — but if you understand that. I don’t rob banks. I think in a broad stroke, Dana’s being very serious. Let me tell you something. I’ve worked for Dana White, I’ve worked for Scott Coker. And so many people, including yourself, ask me, ‘Hey, what’s the difference between those two?’ And it was very hard for me to answer, because there are so many similarities, but there is one — you pitch a fight to Scott Coker, the words you want him to say back to you is, ‘Fun, that would be fun.’ If you pitch a fight to Dana White, the word you’re looking for is, ‘Interesting.’
“It Dana looks at you and he says, ‘Interesting,’ you’re going to get it. If Coker says, ‘Fun,’ you’re going to get it. No, [White] doesn’t do gimmicky fights, that’s true. He doesn’t do gimmicky. He doesn’t bring in a 500-pounder and the 180-pounder. Now, that doesn’t mean that, to my point, every now and then we get to have fun. Sure we do.”