UFC fighters like Dan Henderson and Junior dos Santos seem to be fundamentally the strong and silent type. Both men have earned reputations for speaking softly and carrying a big right hand but recent events show that every steak needs some sizzle.
Henderson, the only two division champ in Pride history and the former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champ, recently lost out on a chance to coach The Ultimate Fighter opposite champ Jon Jones. He got beat out by Chael Sonnen, a Middleweight coming off a loss who hasn't even fought at Light Heavyweight in five years.
Dos Santos on the other hand, seems to have learned a lesson after boring everyone during his tenure opposite Brock Lesnar on The Ultimate Fighter and has been spending his time going into his title defense against Cain Velasquez by talking about everyone but Velasquez. Whether it's boxing champ Wladimir Kitschko or suspended star Alistair Overeem, JDS is happy to let you know he could beat their ass.
Sports Illustrated's Jeff Wagenheim looked at this trend with a skeptical eye:
Hey, you with the four-ounce gloves on: Cup those leatherbound hands to your ear and listen to Chael. Don't just lend an ear but also give voice to what Sonnen says, repeating it word for word, bluster for bluster. Do that and you'll go places, kid.
The mixed martial arts game is entering a brazen new world. Just as the days when a skinny jiu-jitsu black belt from Brazil could choke "Uncle!" out of musclebound man mountains eventually gave way to an avalanche of multidimensional athletes who can hurt you in more ways than there are sides to an octagon, now we're transitioning to an era that to sports purists like me feels less like an era and more like an error. It's not what you do or what you've done that matters, goes the thinking of today's UFC, it's the way you say what you're going to do. Fighting words aren't just idle chatter anymore. They're the last word.
But he's a cynical old mainstream sports journalist. "Don't believe the hype" is more than a cliche for your hard-bitten types, it's a religion.
Here's a writer with a more flexible ethic, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Snowden, he's all for the Chael-ing of the sport:
I can't tell you how to succeed in the cage. I have no idea how to set up an omoplata or the perfect sweep. I'm not even quite sure how to spell omoplata. But I do know this-when the media comes calling, whether it's Sherdog, Fuel TV or Bleacher Report, you better have a plan for what you are going to say.
You ply your trade with your fists, that's for sure. But in the UFC, you make your money and establish your legacy with your mouth. Mixed martial arts combines sport and spectacle like few other endeavors. No matter what your coach tells you, winning is not enough. It never has been and never will be.
To make your mark in this industry, to maximize your earning potential and build a nest egg in the few short years you can compete at a high level, you better do more than win. You need to entertain, from the pre-fight interviews all the way through a post-fight appearance with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour.
I have to come down on the Snowden side of things. Great fights are great fights but story, character and drama are what casual fans care about and casual fans are the difference between selling 300,000 pay-per-views and 700,000.
It seems like Junior dos Santos has figured that out, I wonder if Dan Henderson can make a late-career conversion the the Church of Chael.