Photo by: Bob Fisher Pugilpix.com
By: Jonathan M. King
The best way to describe Chael P. Sonnen’s personality is polarizing. His cantankerous approach and quick tongue leave most people who come across him on one side of the room or the other. Not many folks find themselves in limbo when asked “What do you think of Chael?” He is charismatic, talented, extremely intelligent, and his fight analysis is as cerebral as anyone in the business. He can also be a dick. A big one! He doesn’t mind playing the bad guy. He understands that in the world of entertainment everyone has a role to play.
These characteristics are the reason he became the face of the UFC on FOX. Simply put, no one else was a better fit. He was the perfect ambassador for the sport. A good looking, witty dude, who engaged the camera as if it were the viewer themselves. Sonnen made you part of the broadcast weather you agreed with him or not, he involved the viewers. His WWE style promos endered fans who once thought him as brash, but now branded him as ‘colorful’.
Most importantly he raised everyone else’s game to his level. He made Karyn Bryant that much better than she already was… His back and forth exchanges with Kenny Florian, were always hysterical, and his presence made the shows fun to watch. Sort of the way Will Ferrel does, Sonnen’s presence commands the room. You never can be sure what you are going to get from him, and that edginess created a ‘Howard Stern-like’ quality that even his detractors had to watch.
Then it all disappeared. Following two failed drug test (for competition in the UFC, not narcotics) Sonnen was released from his position at FOX, the network cited his conduct as their reasoning.
Ever since the quality of the FOX broadcasting of UFC events has been lacking. Sonnen’s chair has been filled with an ever-changing group of fighters that include (most recently) Josh Koscheck, Matt Serra, Chris Lytle, and Jake Ellenberger. All of whom made Sonnen’s absence that much more obvious with less than stellar performances.
Broadcasting and working with other broadcasters is an artform. A talent that Sonnen has displayed naturally. Maybe we miss him now because those who have tried to replace him have been horrible. However I don’t think its about the what the others lack, per say, its more about what Sonnen possesses. Simply put they’re failures are that they are not Chael!
Not everyone is meant to be a fighter. The same can be said about analysts. Sonnen’s absence from the FOX broadcast team has shined a glaring spotlight on that fact. The void left in his absence is tremendous. It reminds me of what the news must have been like after Cronkite left…There was no news, because he WAS the news!
Punishment and forgiveness go hand in hand. With the circumstances around this case, with the types of drugs he was taking, and the reasons for taking them (coming off of TRT, and fertility treatments for the soon to be father), maybe its time to forgive. Not because he is needed so badly but….well yeah, because he is needed so badly.
Lets face facts ‘The UFC on FOX’ programming is horrible without ‘The American Gangsta’, borderline unwatchable. The last few shows have proven like Cronkite before him, Chael Sonnen is the identity of ‘The UFC on FOX’ programming. Without him, there really isnt much too watch. Its time to stop fixing mistakes with other mistakes. Please, put Chael back on TV.