In the 1997 film “Private Parts” about the rise of shock jock radio DJ Howard Stern, the movie focused on his meteoric rise to the top of the ratings while irritating just about everyone from the FCC to his bosses along the way.
A scene in the movie depicts a poll asking Stern fans why they listened and the most common answer given was “I want to see what he’ll say next.” When Stern detractors were asked why they continued to listen despite hating him, the most common answer was “I want to see what he’ll say next.”
If Howard Stern has a counterpart in the world of mixed martial arts, his name is Chael Sonnen.
Much like Stern, Sonnen played the game of being politically correct and answering questions the “right way” for years, but somewhere along the road a light bulb went on in his head that simply pointed out sometimes talking about what people want to hear isn’t what you should say.
From that moment on, Sonnen has been on a verbal tirade attacking at will and speaking his mind about a myriad of subjects including past opponents, future opponents, and just about everything in between.
Sonnen’s comments are often seen as hilarious and satirical, other times they are seen as hurtful and unnecessary. One person who sees all sides of Chael Sonnen and the blowback from his wide variety of comments is his manager, Mike Roberts of MMA Inc.
Roberts has worked with Sonnen for several years and known him even longer, but despite his clients propensity for saying whatever is on his mind, he’s never once thought about censoring or asking his fighter to amend what he says.
Sometimes he does have to ask if he’s serious however.
“I don’t call him up and say ‘did you just say that?’ I’ll give you an example, he just came and stayed at my house about a week and a half ago, he attended Urjiah (Faber’s) golf tournament and we stayed up late talking one night and just talking about life. I asked him a couple of times on stuff, do you really mean what you said?” Roberts told MMAWeekly Radio.
“I do have moments like that where even I have to ask him ‘are you serious?’”
Sonnen’s antics have made him one of the most well known fighters in all of MMA. He’s become possibly the most sought after interview in the sport, and love him or hate him, everyone is curious what Chael Sonnen is going to say next.
“With Chael we get so much fan mail for him and it’s 50/50. Half the people love him and half the people hate him, but either way he’s relevant and people care. They either want to see him win or they want to see him get his butt whipped,” Roberts commented.
“Chael’s relevant, people care, they want to see him fight, and that’s good for business.”
Getting Sonnen back to fighting was no easy task. After dealing with a suspension from the California State Athletic Commission, as well as Federal money laundering charges, Sonnen had to take some serious time away from the sport and change some things to get back to fighting.
Now scheduled to face Brian Stann at UFC 136 in October, Sonnen is happy to get back to the business of fighting to earn a paycheck, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be talking along the way.
“We spent a lot of hours and days and months working to get Chael back fighting again, and honestly Chael just wanted to fight. He wanted a chance to compete,” Roberts explained. “My personal opinion, I’m not sure if Brian Stann wins if that makes him the No. 1 contender, but if Chael goes in and has a dominant performance like we’re expecting, I would certainly think he’s in the mix.”
Through it all, Roberts has stood by Sonnen each step of the way and from comments where he told former Pride Grand Prix champion Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic that he’s been carried out more times that Chinese food to his absolute blasting of Wanderlei Silva over the past few months, his manager stands beside him no matter what.
“I’ve seen a couple of interviews lately where it gave me a good chuckle and a good laugh. With Chael right now you don’t know what you’re going to get. You can get the crazy Chael that’s going to say whatever is on his mind, or you might get the super intellectual Chael that wants to break down fights and talk about guys on a straight up level. For me, he’s equally entertaining each way,” Roberts said.
“I don’t always agree with everything that he says, I’m not sure he means everything that he says, but when he does the straight-up interviews, he’s one of the most knowledgeable guys in the sport. He’s one of the most knowledgeable guys I know in the business.”