In the Red Corner, we have Jon Lane, a features writer for MMAJunkie and Fight! Magazine, among other outlets. And in the Blue Corner, the self-appointed King of Kayfabe, UFC middlleweight title challenger Chael Sonnen. Here is what happens when Lane submits a bizarre, inscrutable, 1000 word question sheet to Sonnen:
Jon Lane: The story opened with an oath you made to your dying father to become a world champion. The chance is coming and barring any injury there’s no denying it this time. You’re in the main event of UFC 117, the organization’s debut in Oakland, and all you have to do is defeat someone considered one of the top if not the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. I get the impression you’re one to never allow the magnitude of an opportunity to overcome you, so how are you taking this in stride – or perhaps more accurately facing it dead on.
Chael : You ask pretty long questions pal, i lost you about half way through.
Jon Lane: To reiterate, all you have to do is defeat Anderson Silva. What does Anderson Silva have to do? This is more than just a title defense to him. Dana White put him on notice to compete in light of the stunt he pulled at UFC 112 and MMA fans, many of whom were unhappy and disappointed in the Spider, are expecting excellence.
Chael : You seem to be asking and answering questions at the same. I'm not sure where i fit in. You seem to be doing a great job on your own.
Jon Lane : You’ve been quoted on the record that you have a moral obligation to beat Silva up. In terms of having to overcome perhaps the sport’s most talented and gifted athlete and the vibe he gives off that he’s in charge and owns the Octagon, can you crack his aura? And how?
Chael : zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.. what?
Jon Lane: You said this: "[Silva is] really good, he’s really effective, and he’s as unpleasing to watch as grass growing. That’s why they called me to get rid of this cancer of the company." Why have you adopted the villain role in MMA? Your strong words directed at Silva the past four years, combined with your ascension to the No. 1 contender’s spot, gives off the impression that you’re playing the part of the heel. Why? Is part of it to better sell a fight?
Chael: Are they paying you by the word? If so, I'll send you a check myself to cover whatever they are paying you to ask me shorter questions.
Jon Lane: Is Silva, despite his incredible talent and what's still a strong following, slowly becoming a fighter a lot of fans would like to see lose?
I’m sure you’ve been asked too many times to count, "Are you ready?" You’ve counted by saying, "I’m not ready, it’s just my turn." What’s the difference?
Chael: If I've answered that questions already, then why are you asking? I have no idea what you are trying to ask...
Jon Lane : The winner of this fight gets Victor Belfort. You and the Phenom are two examples of how despite suggestions that Silva will move to light-heavyweight after he cleans out the middleweight division, that may not necessarily the case. My last story was on how the lightweight division was blown up by Frankie Edgar’s win over B.J. Penn. The fighters I spoke to took exception to any suggestion that Penn cleaned out the division even though he hadn’t lost since 2002. How do you react to whenever you hear that Silva is unstoppable, unbeatable and my eventually be better suited for a move up to 205?
Chael: I'll have a Venti Iced Mocha and an almond biscotti.
Jon Lane: You can change the course of the middleweights by knocking off Silva. Have you fully grasped the opportunity of become a champion and defeating one of the all-time greats and having that much of an impact on the future of the division and the sport?
Jon Lane : You’re 3-0 since Damian Maia last February. What did you learn from that last defeat?
CHael: Do you think I should get a puppy?
Jon Lane: Since the loss to Jeremy Horn at UFC 60 you told Fight you "didn’t deal with stuff right" and thought of quitting. Sessions with sports psychologist Ed Versteeg put you back on the right path. What was that ‘stuff’ and how did Dr. Versteeg recalibrate you?
Chael: Here's a clue - Albert Hoffman / Sandoz Laboratories / Owlsley Stanley III / Jerry / "Box of Rain"
Jon Lane : You won your next five fights and are 10-2 –the loss to Maia and the disputed first Filho fight the only setbacks. Over the years you’ve developed a bit of a mean streak. Is it one you can control?
Chael : No
Jon Lane : The win over Nate Marquardt was arguably your best since you took a rising star completely off his game, but the price was hard. There was the cut on the bridge of your nose. You were quoted saying that guillotine choke late in the third round was "one of the most horrible experiences of my life." It was hell getting out of bed and the kicker was you were offered a chance at Silva last month when Victor Belfort was forced to pull out, but there was no way you were able to fully prepare having to overcome those aches and pains. Whatever doesn’t kill a fighter makes him stronger. How did you emerge from that entire ordeal stronger even though you walked out of Las Vegas that night a winner?
Chael : I really don't think you need me for this interview, I'm happy to help, but you can just divide your question in half and have the 1st par serve as the questions and the 2nd part serve as the answer. Is my Venti Mocha here yet?
Jon Lane : Your distain (if that’s an accurate word) for Silva is well-documented. Silva took a ton of abuse from the media and fans for his shenanigans. The performance was called an embarrassment and a complete lack of respect and class for his opponent and the sport. Watching that were you seething, telling yourself I’m going to ram this clown into the mat and beat the ego out of him?
Chael : See previous answer
Jon Lane : What if Silva tries doing that at your expense in August? If he has you in position where he can end the fight and walk away as the better man, but instead chooses to dance and make the fight a mockery, what will you do?
CHael :I will call you into the ring to bore him to death with rambling inane questions.
Jon Lane : Obviously you have no intention of letting it come down to that. Silva’s skills are on another planet and it’ll be your turn to do what nobody has done since January 20, 2006. He’s like Georges St. Pierre in that he makes observers wonder, "What on earth does one have to do to defeat him?" How do you intend to be the man who finally brings the Spider to his knees?
Chael : Planet, skills, St. Pierre, knees, yeah! Wait....What? Wheres my biscotti?
I do appreciate your honesty. My goal as a reporter is to ask in-depth questions that allow me to tell a story beyond a story, and have conducted previous telephone and e-mail interviews with the same approach. I apologize if I lost you, so would it help if I trimmed it down to the basics? I do need you for the interview. I read the story in Fight on you, the insights you provided, and know I too can make it work.
I owe you a Venti Mocha and will throw in an almond biscotti. Your time is valuable so let me know how I can make things easier. Perhaps a phone conversation?
You accomplished your goal of telling a story all right.....
I'm not certain why, at this point, you would want to modify anything. You had time (LOTS of time, apparently) to prepare your questions, and they represent you; they...DEFINE you. My answers define me too. I'm happy and satisfied with the interview as it stands. You may recall on more than one occasion during the (comparatively brief) "answer" segments of our interview that I mentioned that you seemed to have it all covered; I really didn't have any place to fit in, and my attempts apparently didn't satisfy you. The reason my answers didn't satisfy you is because YOU didn't say them; they actually take time and space away from points YOU want to make. So I did the interview in good faith, I spent time on it in an effort to be courteous, but it was an insurmountable task to approach the standards of verbosity and loquaciousness that you set; you simply set the bar too high, and expected more from me (as far as the simple raw tonnage of words you employ, which constitute a form of "journalism" I cannot accomodate) than I could possibly supply. I'm comfortable with that; I'm NOT a journalist, but I'm willing to stand behind my answers. As a Journalist, please have the courage to stand behind your questions. I await publication of the interview "en toto", and if I do not see it, I will post both the interview and this post-interview correspondence (both mine AND yours) as my own, admittedly, imperfect, form of "journalism".
In the next MMA Worldwide Magazine I will publish portions of your fan Q&A and our 2009 interview. And thank goodness for spell check :-)
It seems to me you're not getting it, Jon. Let me make this absolutely CRYSTAL CLEAR for you. You contacted me, and requested an interview. You GOT one. I took the time to read your rambling, unfocused, semi-coherent questions, and answered them. You have CONSISTENTLY DODGED the question of whether or not you will publish it. And I should remind you, Jon, that in this age of the Internet, NOTHING GOES AWAY. NOTHING. You can not, and WILL NOT, since I WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO, bury or ignore what YOU wrote, or what I wrote. I have enjoined you repeatedly and asked you whether or not you plan on publishing it, ALL OF IT. If NOT, I WILL. It EXISTS. You can acknowledge it,and find a way to accommodate it, or turn your back on it; in which case, it will lock its jaws around you and start swallowing. As sure as night follows day, your words will find you out.
Obviously, given that you are reading this right now, Sonnen made good on his promise to leak the transcript of their conversation. I'll admit, I had grown tired of his contrived boasting in the media, but this stunt makes me see Chael in a whole new light. He isn't simply a pest, he's one of the most innovative workers in MMA. By dressing down this Jon Lane character publicly, but in genuine terms, Sonnen has evoked the classic interview promos of great pro wrestling heels. This is post-modern MMA kayfabe at it's best.