Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
The date is set, the stakes have been announced.
In what is sure to be the most anticipated rematch in the history of the UFC, Chael Sonnen challenged middleweight champion Anderson Silva to a bout on the pay-per-view (PPV) card the promotion historically holds the day before the Super Bowl.
And he did so in the most flamboyant way possible. In a move that would have made Vince McMahon stand and applaud -- or sit and stew quietly in a jealous rage -- Sonnen laid out the ultimatum to his Brazilian foe.
If "The Spider" loses, he will leave the 185-pound division. If Sonnen loses, the Team Quest member will quit the UFC. The battle lines have been drawn, Maniacs.
Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard should be glad they had another amazing fight otherwise all the post-event chatter would have been about the gangster from Oregon and his quest to claim what he claims is rightfully his. Sonnen will tell anyone who will listen that despite not getting his hand raised in Oakland last year, he beat Silva for nearly 25 minutes and became the champion. He's the "people's champion, the lineal champion, and the best damn middleweight."
The pro wrestling schtick rubs some mixed martial arts (MMA) fans the wrong way. They think that particular brand of theatrics has no place in a real sport and only serves to sully its reputation. And then there are some who love it. They appreciate Sonnen's showmanship and status as a quote machine with a pulse.
But whichever side of the fence you end up on when it comes to Chael Sonnen, one thing cannot be denied: the man knows how to sell a fight.
And thanks to him, Silva/Sonnen II will do at least one million buys.
After Floyd Mayweather won his latest bout after what some -- including this writer -- called a sucker punch, hatred for the boxing great reached a fever pitch. It was then -- more than ever -- that the casual fan wanted to see Mayweather get his comeuppance at the hands of Manny Pacquiao.
If that fight is ever made, it would make ludicrous amounts of money. If there's a record for something -- be it attendance, gate, or even amount of nachos sold inside the venue -- it would be broken at a Mayweather/Pacquiao bout. The fight is that anticipated.
It's simply because fans have an emotional investment in the fight. Mayweather seems to be everything that we hate. Yes, he is one of the best but he also knows it and acts accordingly. Why hatred stems from that is unclear but it's the same psychological trick that professional wrestling has been exploiting for years. Watching Sonnen operate, it seems that he might be the only MMA fighter to have figured it out.
You can groan and roll your eyes as images of Ric Flair and Roddy Piper enter your mind but Sonnen is mixing drama and sport perfectly. The Team Quest wrestler is 4-1 in his last five fights with that lone loss being to the champ. He is head and shoulders the number one contender to Silva's title above any other middleweight under the UFC's employ.
The sport side of the issue is fulfilled, there's no arguing that. You would be hard pressed to make a convincing argument that anyone was more deserving than Sonnen to take on "The Spider." His domination of Brian Stann -- who was undefeated at 185-pounds and also in line for a title shot should he have won -- and subsequent finish was a definitive statement.
This isn't Brock Lesnar getting a title shot with a 1-1 UFC record simply based on his name. While Lesnar ended up making good on the opportunity by going on to defeat Randy Couture, Frank Mir, and Shane Carwin, the justification for putting him in a championship bout was a farce.
But Sonnen sets himself apart from every other fighter in the business with his ability to add a sense of drama behind what would otherwise seem logical and well, a bit bland. A fight like Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos is anticipated simply because it's two of the best stepping inside the Octagon.
Beyond that, there aren't any angles to sell the PPV. In the same way, Silva and Sonnen are also two of the best but the drama that Sonnen has added makes the fight a can't-miss.
Sonnen may fail when he takes on "The Spider" for the second time. Like the first fight, he may fall victim to another submission thrown out by the Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) black belt. He has admitted as much. Where he doesn't fail, where he doesn't falter is in getting people to watch it.
In that regard, Sonnen is the pound-for-pound king.