If Chael Sonnenâ€™s fists were on par with his mouth, heâ€™d have retired years ago with a record of 50 â€“ 0. The undisputed king of trash talk battles the pound-for-pound greatest fighter on the planet on 7 August at UFC 117 and his pre-fight antics have single-handedly raised the bar on the art of tactical goading.
By Alan Murphy
Shortly after upsetting Nate Marquardt with a dominant decision win at UFC 109, Sonnen (pictured above in white shorts) declared verbal war upon middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Not a microphone has crossed his path since, that Sonnen hasnâ€™t commandeered in his relentless quest to belittle Silva.
â€œThis guy is no more real than the Loch Ness Monster,â€ rapped Sonnen, â€œIf he needs me to expose him, then I will."
Further exploring the theme, he added, â€œThat guy's no more the top fighter out there than Bigfoot is roaming the woods."
Similar taunts have come in weekly, and sometimes daily salvos over the last six months. Sonnen even accused Silva of feigning an inability to communicate outside of his native Portuguese.
â€œAnderson Silva speaks perfect English,â€ he said. â€œHe just has such a low amount of respect for you and all the rest of the media that he pretends he doesnâ€™t.â€
Like or loathe Sonnenâ€™s calculated broadsides, he has undoubtedly enlivened the build up to UFC 117. The trash talking has been exclusively one-way traffic, but better that than no-way traffic.
Silva has not risen to any of Sonnenâ€™s taunts, and is a notoriously difficult fighter to promote. Not only are pay-per-view buys for Silva headliners in steep decline, they even lag significantly behind the UFC average. Astonishing for a man widely regarded as the worldâ€™s best.
Worse still, Silvaâ€™s performances against journeymen of Sonnenâ€™s apparent calibre (the part-time politician has lost 10 times) have ranged from lacklustre, to downright bizarre.
His last showing against Damien Maia was so abysmal that UFC president Dana White promised to fire him if repeated â€“ an unprecedented threat against a reigning champion.
It is arguable then, that without Sonnenâ€™s oft hilarious, oft cruel, always compelling baiting, fan interest in UFC 117 would be muted. Credit has to fall to Sonnen for dragging what appears a straightforward title defence for Silva, kicking and screaming to the water coolers and into the public consciousness.
It wouldnâ€™t seem fitting to deprive Chael of the last word: â€œI'm going to take Silvaâ€™s belt on 7 August â€“ and Dana's going to fire him on 8 August.â€