Superstars are far and few in between….hence why they are superstars right?
But every so often, a person comes along that is so compelling in everything they do, that it makes you sit back and think, “this person is ON FIRE right now!”.
Enter, “The American Gangster”, Chael P. Sonnen…from the infamously “mean streets” of suburban West Linn, Oregon.
A former NCAA wrestling All-American and University Nationals Champion from the University of Oregon, Sonnen cut his teeth in the grinding wrestling rooms of the Pacific Northwest and transitioned to the MMA world in the hallowed grounds of the original Team Quest. Teammates like: the legendary Randy Couture, 2X Olympian Matt Lindland, Hall of Famer Dan Henderson and Colorado’s own DREAM and Bellator Champion, Joe Warren.
The toughness acquired in that gym was the foundation that would forge the reputation of that “wrestling gym” and create the beginnings of “The American Gangster”.
Sonnen was a good fighter in his early MMA days, and had some successful stints in Japan and domestically against some notable past champions of the WEC. Once the UFC acquired the WEC, Sonnen was brought into the UFC’s Light Heavyweight division to be what many considered would be a career as a gatekeeper for the 185-205lb divisions.
Always a very intelligent guy, Sonnen saw the 2 major things in the sport of MMA that really bothered him. First off, he hated the fact that people were not fighting to compete for a championship belt. The hungry competitor couldn’t fathom why other fighters were even there…if they didn’t want to fight for the title. The other frustration for Sonnen was the lack of “personalities” within the sport of MMA and he quickly and shrewdly began to transform himself into one of sports ultimate “sound byte” machines.
There was not a camera he didn’t like and not a topic Sonnen was afraid to address. Using his unique “pro-wrestling” style of charisma in a humble MMA world , Sonnen’s sharp wit, stinging remarks and his relentless and extremely exhausting style of fighting earned him the big Main Event fights against the biggest named fighters in the world.
His unwavering verbal assaults on opponents and countries were unprecedented in the sport of MMA. His polarizing comments about Brazil and the legendary fighters it produced, created some of MMA’s most heated and highly anticipated rivalries. He also created an undeniable excitement with every word, every threat, every promise and every performance. His ability to captivate audiences created a very lucrative path for a superstar legacy.
The greatest part of the American Gangster is that he backed up his words with a frightful vengeance. If he told you he was going to be coming after you…you could bet your life he would be coming after you. He always brought his fearlessness, he always brought his tenacity and he always brought his sportsmanship after the battle was over. He never complained about taking on the best, he always took responsibility and accountability for a loss and he always entertained us with his outlandish challenges….and best of all, he always stepped up to fight anyone at anytime.
The legend of Sonnen really began to take shape when “The American Gangster” set his bullseye on the pound for pound greatest fighter to ever step foot in any cage….Anderson Silva. Sonnen tortured and antagonized Silva so much, that it almost took precedence over all of the other news in the sport for 2 years. Sonnen did everything in his power to get a fight with Anderson Silva. He called him out and challenged him everywhere he went, he insulted his training partners, he insulted his country….and finally insulted his wife.
And at that very moment….The American Gangster was born.
Sonnen announced his retirement from the UFC and competitive MMA last week. His prescribed need for Testosterone Replacement Therapy (to live a normal life) has prevented him from being able to pass any state’s athletic commission “banned substance list” standards and ultimately has forced the Gangster to retire from competing.
This is not the last we will see of The American Gangster. It is just the last time we’ll see him compete for an MMA title.
There are grumblings of Sonnen being next in line to take over the helm for Dana White’s Presidency of the UFC. History has shown that in order to lead the sport of MMA into the next frontier, we need a leader that is: brutally honest, fearless, smart, politically incorrect, strategic and experienced. Will Sonnen be able to reinvent himself yet again as the fearless head of the world’s next generation of MMA?
Nobody knows for sure, but if the sport of MMA is going to continue to grow globally…we will need someone like Chael P. Sonnen to lead the efforts.
As you transition into the next phase of your life Gangster….we the fans say, Thank You. Thank you for always being willing to fight and fight the best in the world. Thank you for changing the sport of MMA. Thank you for being so forthright about difficult subjects. Thank you for your American patriotism….and Thank you for all that you’ve done so far.