Chael Sonnen: What’s Next for the Gangster From West Linn, Oregon?

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Once again, the curtain was pulled back and we saw that he was just as human as you or I, despite his best attempts to convince us otherwise. Once again we witnessed his mystique fade into oblivion with every gloved fist to the face. For a moment, it appeared as if he had been fooling us this whole time. He had to have been. I mean, how can a guy be so unbelievably amazing in the Octagon and do what no other before him has ever come close to doing, and still come up short again?

Now that the cameras have stopped rolling, Chael P. Sonnen finds himself at a crossroads in life, a time when decisions like changing weight classes or changing careers — decisions of great consequence — have to be made,  or so it would seem. Some have tossed around the idea of retirement for the thirty-five year old southpaw. Need I remind you that Sonnen is the one that said, You cannot ‘retire’ from a sport unless you win a world championship. You only quit.”? Even after two title shots against UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Sonnen is still a lot like my second favorite type of bra: strapless. Add that to the poetic role reversal of Silva making a quip about having his wife fix him a steak after the fight — that twist of the knife, delivered with a champion’s smile — and you can better see how dejected the American Gangster is feeling after his performance at UFC 148.

Maybe you, like many others, think the former politician should change weight classes or go take his shtick to WWE. It’s absurd to think he would move down to 170lbs. given the reported 20+ pounds he had to cut the day before the weigh-ins. Similarly, a move to the 205lb. division isn’t exactly any less of a career suicide than propositioning Dana White to ‘Free CagePotato’ in a hotel lobby. But that WWE idea seems totally legit, right? WWE thinks so too, even if there are others who would advise against it.

I’m not saying that I wouldn’t tune in to watch Sonnen on Raw, if only to see how he’d respond when he’s encouraged to let his character become his identity, and everything he says is scripted. (Oh wait.) But the thing you’ve got to realize is that there is a world of difference between being a wrestler and being a ‘rassler, and if you need an explanation then you probably love drinking cheap pop and don’t mind being called Mark even if it’s not your name. Sure, Sonnen can cut a promo that would make “Rowdy” Roddy Piper proud, has a familiarity with performance enhancing injections, and a silo full of charisma, but he’s a competitor at heart. With a successful pizza restaurant lining his pockets, he doesn’t need to strap on a pair of tights and trade figure-four leg-locks with CM Punk — especially when he’s a pugilist, a fist-fighter, a gangster from the mean streets of Oregon. When you need a sports entertainer, go call up Brock Lesnar. When you need a cage fighter, you call Chael Sonnen.

What then, does Sonnen do now if he can’t beat the champion, but he’s better than everyone in his weight class? Do you give him another rematch? That’s what he’d like to see happen, but that idea has been nixed by the Baldfather himself. Death threats notwithstanding, it’s far more probable that “The Bad Guy” will eventually find himself in a soccer stadium in Rio standing across the cage from the likes of Vitor Belfort, whom Sonnen’s mother just absolutely loves, or Wanderlei Silva, whom Rex absolutely loves. Given the stuff he’s said about them, I’m sure both of these Brazilians would be more than happy to be Sonnen’s next dance partner.

So you see, nothing is really going to change. Chael Sonnen will keep doing what he’s been doing for years…and so will we. He’ll get a phone call from Joe Silva with a name and a date. He’ll sign that contract and, should he get the itch, relentlessly talk trash about his opponent until the point of insanity. All of the major radio hosts will get a heaping pile of witty one-liners, memorable quotes, and sound bytes that will live on forever, like the one about Nogueira trying to feed the bus a carrot.

On the appointed night, as soon as his music hits those speakers, he’ll make that walk and do his job. As for you and I, we’ll eat it up — every last minute of it — and we’ll throw down our money and buy the next card he’s on because we can’t help but want to see him try to back up his outrageous claims. We’ll continue to turn a blind eye to Sonnen’s slightly less-than-honest material and laugh at the absurdity and hilariousness of it all, enabling him to stick with the gimmick that’s brought him so far already.

When the time comes, Sonnen will play his part. What else would he do with himself? An athlete can quit, but a performer will always find his way back to the spotlight.

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