Chael Sonnen: Oscar De La Hoya Didn’t Know How to Tell the Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz Story

November 29, 2018

Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions made their jump into mixed martial arts on Nov. 24 with Golden Boy Promotions: Liddell vs. Ortiz 3 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The event was headlined by a third bout between rivals Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz. De La Hoya drew criticism for a lack of promotion and featuring two fighters well past their primes.

Ortiz defeated Liddell by first-round knockout, avenging two previous losses to “The Iceman.” Their rivalry is one of the most storied in MMA history with Liddell knocking out Ortiz in 2004 and 2006. Their bitter feud wasn’t conveyed leading up to the trilogy bout and the fight itself was a stark reminder that Father Time is undefeated.

“Disaster. I guess you would call it a disaster,” said Chael Sonnen looking back at the event.

“It gets lost on so many people including people in the business of what promotion means,” Sonnen said. “It’s storytelling. That’s it. You have to find the story and then you have to be able to tell it and then you have to hope that that story resonates.

“Promotion as a whole is a big experiment. There is no recipe in that. There’s no college in the world that you can go major in fight promotion. There’s no book in any library in the world that you can check out that will tell you about fight promotion. It’s a big experiment and there’s only a few guys alive that know how to do it.”

The build-up to the event wasn’t about Liddell and Ortiz’s history other than Liddell held two wins over “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy.” The buzz was mostly about De La Hoya.

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“So much of this has been a commentary on Oscar De La Hoya in a negative way, which I’m not sure is fair. I don’t know if I totally agree with that, although I find myself perpetuating that. I find myself being a little bit hard on Oscar,” said Sonnen.

“Look, Oscar is not passionate about mixed martial arts and that was very clear and very obvious. When it comes to storytelling and building anticipation you can not just set up a ring and the rest of it just takes care of itself,” added Sonnen.

“I’ve heard fighters threaten to leave a promotion and start their own promotion. That’s essentially what we saw here. Chuck and Tito come together and go to Oscar, pitch him on an idea that Oscar was never passionate about, that he was never behind with a story that he simply did not know how to tell. It doesn’t make Oscar a bad promoter. The lesson to be learned in this is you’ve got to stay in your lane.

“Vince McMahon went into football. It didn’t work. Vince McMahon went into bodybuilding. It didn’t work. He goes in wrestling, he can sell out any arena in the world any day of the week that he wants to, but he’s passionate about it. He understands it and he knows what he’s doing,” said Sonnen.

De La Hoya is a boxing promoter.  He didn’t understand the MMA market or how to appeal to its fan base and it showed.