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ESPN needs to make sure their talent have their facts straight

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Chael Sonnen can’t play fast and loose with facts during UFC broadcasts

Chael Sonnen lied about Derrick Lewis’ record during UFC 265 broadcast
Chael Sonnen lied about Derrick Lewis’ record during UFC 265 broadcast
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

With three finishes in four fights, the UFC and ESPN had some time to kill between the early prelims and the prelims of UFC 265. With that, the production team threw the broadcast to the trio of Megan Olivi, Chael Sonnen and Max Kellerman. Things did not go well for that trio as Sonnen decided he was just going to straight up lie on the broadcast.

“Derrick Lewis has never been knocked down,” said Sonnen, who was seated directly behind the UFC/ESPN logo on the broadcast set. “Derrick Lewis has never been finished.”

Neither of those claims was remotely true, and both were embarrassing for Sonnen, the UFC and ESPN.

Going into his matchup against Ciryl Gane in the main event of UFC 265, Derrick Lewis was 25-7-0-1. Of his seven career losses, four had come by knockout and one via submission. Never finished? Never knocked down? The most basic effort of fact checking would have told Sonnen he shouldn’t make either of those claims as a representative of the UFC and ESPN, but he did.

I know the excuse is going to be that Sonnen plays fast and loose with reality. After all, this is a man, who despite a professional MMA record of 31-17-1, claims he is “undisputed and undefeated.”

I get that, that’s the Sonnen schtick. That’s his thing. That’s what we expect from Sonnen. I don’t have a problem with any of that when Chael Sonnen is playing Chael Sonnen on his time or on his podcast, but when his paycheck is coming from the UFC or ESPN during a fight where the commentary team are supposed to be reliable, trustworthy and professional, then I have a problem with Sonnen’s lies. Some fans might not know better. Some fans might actually think Sonnen, sitting behind a UFC/ESPN logo, is actually telling them the truth when he speaks during a UFC event. After all, that’s what fans usually expect from a broadcaster or commentator when they are reviewing alleged facts and figures.

This may seem trivial, but it’s not. What if during a Monday Night Football game some talking head came on the broadcast and just started spewing verifiably false stats and “facts” about a player. Would that be acceptable? Would that not get a spotlight shined on it?

If the UFC and ESPN want to use Sonnen on a broadcast, that’s fine. He’s a perfectly acceptable choice for that role, but if UFC and ESPN do so, they need to make sure they are getting Chael Sonnen the professional commentator and not Chael “The American Gangster” Sonnen. If Sonnen can’t separate the two, the UFC and ESPN should make that division easy for Sonnen, by ceasing to use him during event broadcasts.