Since former UFC Middleweight lightning rod, Chael Sonnen retired from active MMA competition, many have been left wondering if there's a star big enough to fill the vacancy he's left in the UFC. Love him or hate him, Sonnen made people sit up and take notice and helped transform Anderson Silva into the bona fide superstar he ended up becoming.
If you followed Chael from his earlier days, you might have missed him, as he hadn't morphed into the brash, silver tongued fan favorite that he is today. It wasn't until he made his second run with the UFC that we saw ‘The Eagle' emerge. Then, with much pomp and circumstance, he began amassing fans. He called people out, he demanded medium rare steaks, he pissed people off, he charmed them.
So what was the secret to going from virtual unknown to megastar? In uncharacteristic fashion, Sonnen earnestly answers this question and goes a step further to map out a blueprint of success for Featherweight champion, Jose Aldo.
I think there's some opportunity out there for a number of guys. Conor McGregor is, without question, the most entertaining guy in or out of the cage right now. There are some other guys that are fun and get what we're doing and understand that you've got a personality, and when they put you on camera, they're trying to see that personality.
Then you've got these other guys, in their suits and ties, and they go out and just sit there, like they're going to win over the fans with that suit and tie. I just don't understand it. If you want to be exciting, then be exciting. Don't make the UFC buy you a plane ticket to whatever press conference is in question if you're not going to help yourself along.
There's guys out there that are really great. I look at Jose Aldo, and he's just so good. I personally have him ranked as the Number 2 fighter in the world, behind Jon Jones. Aldo may be the Number 1 fighter. That Featherweight class is so much harder than Jones' weight class. The point is, he's the lowest paid champ in UFC history. He's the lowest drawing champion in UFC history, and that's 100% his fault. He's complaining about money constantly, but he's been on the PPV cards like the rest of the champions have. He just does nothing to maneuver his career.
If I was Jose Aldo, and I know that I can't draw flies, the second Cain (Velasquez) gets announced to fight in Mexico against Fabricio Werdum, I would have picked a fight. I would have picked a fight, I would have picked that date, and I would have gone to the media and called out whatever opponent it was, and I would have said, ‘Meet me in Mexico.' I would have taken advantage of the revenue that Cain is going to bring in.
That concept that I just laid out to you would be such a foreign idea to him and his management team, despite that it's so obvious. What I said is 101. You get on the biggest cards if you're fighting PPV like the champions are. I don't think any of this is crossing his mind.
If I can't create a big card, then I'm gonna get stuck on a big card. If I'm fighting Rashad Evans, and he and I can't draw on our own, then I'm going to challenge him to a co-main with St. Pierre on top, headlining. Then, I'm going to benefit from the biggest PPV of the year.
When they ask you who you want to fight, have an answer. If you don't have an answer, do not say, ‘I will fight whoever the UFC wants me to fight.' Not only do they not name anybody's name, they then go to the absolute worst default, which is the ‘I'll fight anybody' line.
They didn't just miss the ball, they struck out. I've also seen them call out multiple guys. ‘Well, I wanna fight this guy or this guy.' Now you've just divided your own fan base. Half of them are gonna go left, half are gonna go right. Focus everything on one guy.
When people would ask me, I would go one of two ways; I would either go after the champion, or I would say I wanted to fight the worst guy with the most appalling record in the biggest venue for the largest paycheck. Why? Because it's also a truthful answer. You don't need to fight Number 2, 3, 4, 5, 6-10. Either fight Number 1 or fight Number 20. You want to get the championship, or you want a fight that will make you look great in there. If there's not an architecture, you've got to create one.
An example is when Rashad and I were going to fight. Rashad and I aren't going to do huge numbers as a main event, but we're both in on the PPV and we both need to be on big cards. When I find out that the 20 year anniversary is coming up and Georges St. Pierre is gonna fight Johny Hendricks, I had my own poster made. I went to a graphic designer, I paid the money and had my own poster made. I then sent Rashad a tweet, and it simply said, ‘Rashad, what are you doing November 16th?' He writes me back and says, ‘Nothing, what's up?' I said, ‘I'll give you one hint' and I tweeted out the picture of the poster. It's got me and Rashad on it with the date and the venue. It was great.
The very next day, Joe Silva yells at me in a hotel in Indianapolis, ‘What are you trying to do, announce your own fights? We announce fights, not you.' The day after that, I had a contract to fight Rashad Evans on November 16th, which just happened to be the highest grossing PPV of the year.
You have got to go outside the box a little bit. You've got to risk being yelled at by Joe Silva, but at the end of the day, you can get your way. The minute I sent that tweet out with the poster, every media outlet picked it up. Now the UFC is faced with two choices. They can either do a fight that I had already announced, or they can try to unwind $5 million worth of free media that tweet got after every media outlet picked it up. It's a lot easier to just send me a contract and send me my PPV bonus [laughs].
Jose Aldo is beating everybody up. I don't say this as a knock on him. I like the guy and I pick him to talk about because I think that he deserves more, but he's got to go out and earn it. He's got to bring in the interest. I can't tell you how often I have to tell people who Jose Aldo is and that he's the current champion. People think that McGregor is the champion because he's fast become the guy in that division that stands out.
It's all about having a hand in your own career, and a lot of these guys just don't do it. Some of these guys just don't get it or understand it, and later down the road, they'll regret it. The few that do, have a lot of fun with it. For me, Conor McGregor is that guy. He's your next real superstar.
This is the first of 3 features that will be posted leading up to Sonnen's inaugural commentary gig with pro-wrestling legend Jim Ross for Battlegrounds MMA. The card features an 8-man tourney, all in the same night, and will be broadcast exclusively on PPV.