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Why We Need Chael Sonnen

Erstwhile UFC middleweight fighter Chael Sonnen stood before the California State Athletic Commission today a man on the precipice.  At issue were the discrepancies between his testimony to them in December in regards to his failed drug screening and his alleged interactions with the Nevada commission, and the stakes were high.  According to Sonnen, he was up for a coaching gig on the fourteenth season of “The Ultimate Fighter”, with the epic insulter going head to head with brash Brit Michael Bisping for top contender status.  “If I don’t get my license today I’m effectively retired,” said Sonnen, as per Josh Gross’s live tweets from the hearing.  “That came from the boss, Dana White.”  Added the man who, in his last ride into battle, pounded the stuffing out of champ Anderson Silva for nearly five rounds before falling prey to a triangle choke: “I worked for this chance my whole life.  I don’t want to retire today.”

The California commission was unmoved, and by a vote of 4-1, upheld their indefinite suspension of the Oregon-native.  With that, the kibosh was put on Sonnen’s TUF coaching bid and shot at the title, and quite possibly his career.  And that’s a shame.

Mixed martial arts needs Sonnen.  It needs him for his ability to talk trash and create hype, and it needs him for his ability to back up that talk with some very real skills in the cage.  Going into his UFC 117 bout against Silva, Sonnen’s mouth went into overdrive spewing vitriol – and it worked.  What should have been a run-of-the-mill match-up between an untouchable striking god of a champ and a tough WEC refugee and grueling grinder of a challenger became one of the most compelling scraps to ever grace the Octagon.  Like no one before and no one since, Sonnen beat the açai out of the Brazilian, and though he lost, he managed to create something out of practically nothing.  He brought the best out of Silva, and left fans hungry for what was sure to be the rematch to end all rematches. 

Does Sonnen deserve to be further punished for his failings?  He served a suspension for a performance-enhancing drug bust and was put on ice by the UFC for his real estate fraud mess.  The California commission believes that isn’t enough.  But the fact of the matter is, no amount of testosterone injections can give you perfectly-timed takedowns and the ability to drop Silva with punches, and white collar crime is a far cry from leading the police on a chase as you rampage through the streets in your oversized vehicle. 

Sure, there are other fighters out there adept at talking trash and generating hype, just as there are those who are competent at dispensing beatings.  Sonnen, however, is different.  He combines it all – in the cage and outside of it – and whether you love him or hate him, you can’t say he isn’t polarizing.  His presence on TUF would’ve breathed life into a stale product, and his name on the UFC’s middleweight roster would’ve made King Silva a marked man.

With him gone, now what?

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