“Attention is more a byproduct,” said Sonnen. “Your real goal is just to stand out. It’s very, very hard to stand out. When we’re all doing the same sport, in similar weight classes under the unified rules, how do you stand out, how do you do things different? So I think that’s a little bit of what people should spend some time on, and when you say a guy can’t be another Conor McGregor, you’d be stunned at how many guys don’t understand that concept. Conor starts wearing suits and a bow tie; now we’ve got other guys showing up in suits and bow ties. No, the bow tie market has been taken…by him. It’s little things, but if you’re trying to do gimmick infringement and be like some other guy…there are ways you can rip somebody’s gimmick off. You just have to put a number of years in between, then you can go ahead and do it.”
Sonnen laughs, but this is all serious business, and hearing him talk about it is a fascinating look into one of the great storytellers the sport has ever seen. And that’s the secret right there, as far as he’s concerned. Tell the story and the rest will follow.
“If I had two messages, neither one of my messages would be to go out there and talk trash,” he said. “And I know I got known for that, but that’s actually not what my goal was. That was just how I went to obtain the goal. The goal was, number one, to tell a story. That’s what promotion is. And number two, understand that we might be in the sport of fighting, but we’re in the business of entertainment, so go out there and entertain.”
Chael Sonnen entertained us for a lot of years, but it may have been ten years ago that he first struck a nerve in the fight game. So how does he remember 2010?
“If I had any regret of my time in the sport, it was that I never enjoyed any of it,” he said. “And I look back now, and go, ‘How did you not enjoy that?’ It was so much fun, and my girlfriend at the time – who is my wife now – would come with me on all those things and we had so many great memories. But at the time, we never enjoyed it. It’s very stressful in that sport, it’s extremely hard work, and the more directions you’re pulled in just means the more random places you have to find a gym to get your workouts in, a random place to get some food, to sleep in a bed somewhere. It was just one of these things where, looking back I’m so grateful and I never even realized all the opportunities I had or maybe some opportunities that other people didn’t have. I thought everybody had a similar schedule, and I never enjoyed it. I look back now, and I would do anything to be back in some of those spots. I never realized what a rare experience it was that is never gonna be duplicated.”
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