Collateral Damage: The Fallout From UFC Fighter Chael Sonnen's PED Test Failure

Reposted in full from WatchKalibRun


Right off the top, I can tell you that if you're looking for a condemnation of Chael Sonnen for cheating and using PEDs, you're not in the right place. This article is not about what Sonnen did, it's about the repercussions of his act. You see, a solitary action doesn't just effect one person, there are unintended consequences. With Sonnen's failed test, not only will he lose (he's expected to be suspended for a year and fined, as well as potentially losing his title shot), but there are several others that stand to lose as well.

Dana White and the UFC

The biggest losers besides Sonnen himself are Dana White and the UFC. First, in Sonnen they had a brand-new star when they haven't been able to create many new ones. Sonnen is the type of fighter that not only can build himself up, but also, within the context of building up a fight, generate a buzz for his opponent, giving them a "rub" (transferrence of support). In a division such as the MW division (which has been plagued with "middle sister" syndrome),. the "Jan Brady" of the UFC, that type of fighter is key. While a fighter such as Michael Bisping is a household name, he isn't a draw, but a fight between he and Sonnen would have drawing potential because of the back-and-forth that would take place.

Monetarily, the UFC loses big. The Silva-Sonnen rematch had a lot of buzz coming out of the fight. Though Sonnen had talked up the fight a lot, leading into it no one thought Sonnen would do what he said he was going to do. He controlled dominated Anderson Silva for the better part of five rounds before being choked out. It was the first time the once-thought unbeatable Silva looked to be in any serious danger in his UFC career. Many chose not to give Silva the credit for the submission and labeled it a "lucky sub" and assured that Sonnen would finish (get the decision) the job in a rematch. While early numbers (a million buys) turned out to be excessively high, the actual number (600K buys) was still a good number and among the top 3 buys featuring Anderson Silva. Despite the decisive finish, UFC President Dana White saw the potential money and decided to make the rematch for some time in 2011 after Silva had healed from a rib injury sustained before the fight. It was expected that the rematch would have an even bigger buyrate than the UFC 117 contest.

The UFC also loses because another one of their stars is caught up in a PED scandal. I would say that this is the biggest star to date that they have had fail a test (yes, even bigger than UFC Heavyweight champions Josh Barnett and Tim Sylvia) as Sonnen's name was out there and was gaining a lot of press. The UFC dodged a similar bullet when UFC Heavyweight Shane Carwin was implicated in a federal steroid trial as having received copious amounts of illegal drugs. The key factors in that case were the lack of a failed test and the fact that the known drug transactions took place before Carwin had signed to the UFC. The failed test of Sonnen puts a spotlight on the biggest dirty secret in MMA, one that for the most part the UFC (and by proxy the MMA media) try not to address: Performance Enhancing Drugs. For the sake of efficiency, I will discuss that at another time.

Anderson Silva

This may seem shocking since he won the fight (remember that?) but Anderson Silva is a big loser in this in more than one way. First, Sonnen was the only guy to take him to the brink of defeat in his UFC career and now that win has been tainted by PEDs. Anderson also severely damaged his rib and objectively appeared to most (invluding Sonnen himself) to not be his normal self. However factual that is, it doesn't change what we witnessed. Anderson Silva was repeatedly taken down and pulled off a last-second triangle choke. While I won't call it "lucky" as some are wiling to do, I will say that it was an amazing feat. The rematch was supposed to answer all of those questions. Was the "non-Spider-like" performance because of his injury? Did Silva take him lightly? The questions that came out of that fight will now go largely unanswered due to the failed test of Sonnen.

Anderson also loses monetarily as the rematch will Sonnen would give him another PPV outing with a potentially great buyrate. Now in the interim Anderson is "stuck" fighting the winner of Okami/Belfort. While both men are certainly worthy adversaries (especially Okami who has been waiting for years for his shot), neither fighter are compelling personalities to the viewing public. And in the world of "entertaining sports" you have to have something that makes people want to spend money on you.

Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar

Just the mention of those two in a potential PPV main event causes many MMA fans to groan. This is the next UFC Lightweight Championship match and most fans aren't excited to see it. The UFC was planning on supplementing this fight with the bigger main event of Silva-Sonnen II, but thanks to the failed PED test, that won't be happening. White Lesnar fighting Velasquez in October at UFC 121, St. Pierre fighting Koscheck at UFC 124 in December and the Light Heavyweight title out of commission until next spring, there aren't many options for this match. Unless they UFC is going to give a free card on SPIKE these guys won't be main eventing in the US, so it appears that this match might be on the next overseas card...which means no buyrate and no PPV bonus.

The MMA Media

The MMA Media loses in situation simply because Chael Sonnen was easy copy. You could always count on a good Chael Sonnen story popping up every couple of days or a video of Sonnen saying something extremely wacked out. Sonnen was guaranteed hits. You needed a quote, you could count on Chael to provide it. The media fell in love with the charasmatic Sonnen and now he's no longer there. While this PED test failure story has legs, it won't be able to fill the void in the media's heart left by Sonnen.

The Fans

The fans are the biggest losers. Besides that, they also lose as a result of Sonnen's failed test. The Silva fans have been hearing it for the past month about how "their boy got his ass beat for 5 rounds" and "got lucky with a submission". Silva fans have been waiting for a rematch so that Silva could shut up Sonnen and his fans. Many have also been sticking to the story that the only reason Silva performed so badly was his rib that he injured before the fight during a sparring session and that a rematch would look totally different. Conversely the Sonnenites have been crowing that Silva got his ass beat for 5 rounds and then got lucky with a submission and that in a rematch Sonnen would finish the job. They state that it wasn't a rib injury that made Silva look so bad, it was Sonnen's takedown skills. Sonnen fans are tired of Silva's fans reminding them that Sonnen choked. The rematch would answer all of these question and now since this won't be taking place, we'll have to hear the "what-ifs" for an indefinite amount of time.


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\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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