Chael Sonnen discusses the 'art of the interview'

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The UFC's resident promo specialist talks about why he says what he says in interviews, and how he doesn't believe in the "manufactured" side of things.

The UFC's Chael Sonnen is obviously one of the most well-known fighters in the promotion. He's definitely a very talented fighter, as evidenced by his first-round submission win over former UFC light heavyweight champion Shogun Rua last Saturday at UFC Fight Night 26. But what Chael is probably known for the most are his promos and interviews. Basically, he's a walking sound bite. This isn't an accidental thing - Sonnen keenly understands the art of the promo, and recently discussed his views on interviews in an interview with Jack Encarnacao on Sherdog's "Rewind" show.

Obviously Chael's promo stuff is based in pro wrestling, and he gives a lot of the credit to "Superstar" Billy Graham:

"You've got to understand everybody comes from Billy Graham. So I think my answer was going to be Len Denton, but I'm sure if Len told the truth, he got inspired by Billy too. Billy Graham actually put a Facebook post out. I had paid homage to him after a fight some time ago, and he appreciated that. Because he appreciated it, I paid him homage again tonight."

He said his best post-fight interview was after the Brian Stann fight at UFC 136 where he called out Anderson Silva. Why? Because it got a reaction:

"Anderson was there, so I got a reaction. That's really what you're after. You want to evoke some type of emotion, especially if you're calling a guy out. That's the whole point. You want him to respond. That's how you get a fight going. It's no different than when you're kids in school. If one guy says something to another guy and the other guy just sits there, then well, you kind of feel bad for the guy. I don't want to see a guy get bullied. But if the other guy goes, ‘Oh, really? You talking to me?' Well, now you've got something to watch. That rule applies here in professional fighting too. It's the same rule as from the playground."

He thinks that if you try to blend in too much and kiss people's asses, you're not going to get what you want:

"Sometimes I feel like a big brother to these guys that’s got to let them know we’re in the fight business. If you want a fight, ask for a fight."

But one thing he says he doesn't believe in is manufactured hype, or hyping a fight just for the sake of it when you're going to take it all back after it's over:

It’s got to be from the heart and it’s got to be real. I would never manufacture conflict. That’s a very important statement. When I talk about big brothering guys, that’s probably lesson number one: Do not hype a fight. If you have an issue, if you have a reason and it’s sincere, feel free to speak about it. Do not make it up and don’t just cut something for entertainment.

...

I really just have one rule, and that is, if you don’t mean it, don’t say it. There is an entertainment aspect for that, but that’s not what we do here and I don’t want to sell anybody anything that isn’t real. I’ve bought it. I bought Mike Tyson versus Lennox Lewis and listened to Tyson apologize afterwards, say he didn’t mean it. I go, ‘Well, then give me my money back. You’ve got to return my money. That was a lie. I bought this on a lie.’ I watched Josh Koscheck and [Georges] St. Pierre, and Josh Koscheck grabbed the mic and said [he] didn’t mean it. Josh, you’re a liar then. There’s 11,000 fans that bought a ticket because they thought that they were going to see a dispute settled. … It bothers me. It’s insincere. I won’t participate in it."

Is he being sincere? This is just another interview, after all. So Chael really saw the Nogueira brothers trying to feed a carrot to a bus? Obviously he didn't see that. I know some might see the second half of his statement as hypocritical considering all of the outlandish things he says. Is it? I'm not sure. The key statement to me is "there's an entertainment aspect for that".

I mean, nobody would buy a potential fight with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Sonnen because he said the carrot thing. It's too outrageous to be believed. That's entertainment. They'd definitely buy a fight between Chael and Nogueira or Vitor Belfort because of stuff Sonnen says about them pulling out of fights a lot though. Why? Because that's real. That's calling it like it is (although it can be a bit over the top at times). Honestly, it's tough to gauge what's legit and what's not with Sonnen's media interviews at times, despite the "it's got to be real" statement - which might be his overall goal in the end. Who knows. I think I just confused myself, and I'm the one writing this damn thing.

But the interview delves much deeper into the subject and provides more context than I can provide here, so you can listen and decide for yourself. You can listen to the whole thing here (starting at 45:33).

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