Chael Sonnen is one of the pioneer “heels” in the mainstream MMA era. His pro-wrestling-like manner of self-promotion helped earn him a few title shots in the UFC and an extended career under Bellator.
Now retired from competition but still very active as a mouthpiece for the sport, “The Gangster from West Linn” has a piece of advice for fighters who’ve followed his footsteps.
“I would encourage these guys to just make sure you have a code. Whatever your code is, display it, and then follow it,” Sonnen told UFC Unfiltered hosts Matt Serra and Jim Norton.
“My code was a little different. One of the reasons I could get away with it, I only went for guys that were above me. They either had to be bigger than me in size or above me in the rankings or the champion when I’m ranked number two or something along these lines.
“I didn’t just spread it to everybody. It wasn’t venom everywhere,” he continued. “It wasn’t to different genders, it wasn’t to people beneath me. That doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what everybody else has to do, but I would share with you, as long as you follow that, as long as you’re not a bully at all, as long as you don’t pick on somebody that’s lower than you, for the most part you’re going to be OK.”
Sonnen admits that the notoriety and infamy brought on by a loudmouth persona can be addicting. But ultimately, he stresses the importance of having some credo in place and adhering to it.
“There is a fine line, and there is a dance there. And one thing about those attention and those headline-grabbing things, it’s fame,” Sonnen explained. “And fame is a drug, and at some point, you will do anything to get your fix. And whether it’s as simple as going to social media and pushing a button, all of a sudden, the world is looking at you. That’s where some of those mistakes are made.
“Calm down, think it through just a little bit, have a code, advertise your code to the world, but stay within it.”