Jul. 7, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Chael Sonnen reacts after losing to Anderson Silva (not pictured) during a middleweight bout in UFC 148 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Leading up to the big UFC 148 title fight between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen this past weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, Sonnen had been a one-man promotion machine, talking up the fight by throwing verbal jabs at not only "The Spider," but the country of Brazil as a whole.
It had been Chael who was doing the talking, it was Chael the one that was ruffling the feathers and it was Chael that was drawing mass interest for the fight. Sure, people were already anxious to see the rematch of their UFC 117 encounter, but with the sharp tongue of Sonnen working overtime, the interest, is safe to say, went up a whole other level.
That was, however, until the final few weeks leading up to the bout.
When Anderson Silva decided he had enough and unleashed his verbal fury at Sonnen at the UFC 148 conference call, "The American Gangster" didn't have much a reply. When Anderson got up-close-and personal with former NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler at both the press conference and at the weigh-ins, a stone cold Sonnen didn't have much of a reaction to either incident.
Sonnen, uncharacteristically, stopped with all of the insults of Anderson and Brazil and kept a distance from as much trash-talk as possible in the final weeks leading up to the bout. Why, you ask? It's simple, he got a call from one of the most likeable and respectful guys in the sport, Renzo Gracie, and it forced him to change his tune:
A very sincere Sonnen had this to say to Ariel Helwani:
"I got a call from Renzo Gracie. When you get a call from a Gracie, it's kind of like getting a call from Randy Couture. You don't share your opinion, you listen, you say okay, and you hang up. And, that's it. He wasn't overly happy with me, but let's leave it at that. There are certain guys that are off limits. The Gracies, Randy Couture, those guys are MMA royalty and if I'm told something, that's it. Things changed after I got off the phone."
So what exactly did Renzo tell Sonnen in their conversation? Renzo stopped by The MMA Hour earlier this week (July 9, 2012) to explain the purpose of the call:
"It's very easy to get lost when you start talking trash. It's very easy to get lost of the real focus. So, in reality, I didn't call to tell him to chill. I called to show the goal that he should be aiming for. He's a great kid, he listened and showed that he can be an unbelievable professional when he needs to. You have to understand, he is one of the most humble guys I've ever seen. He understood, agreed and completely changed."
MMA Fighting previously elaborated a bit more in detail what Renzo told Sonnen:
"I just told him that if he kept that trash talking he would be taking the greatness of the task that he had ahead of him. He is fighting one of the best fighters of our generation, and people would lose the chance to know the real Sonnen, a great athlete who I saw young fighting hard back in the Japan days, building his career as a fierce fighter, a career that ended up turning him into one of the amazing people that populate our great sport. I just asked him to behave with the greatness of a champion. Many fighters dream with that opportunity, to fight the best and test themselves in the toughest sport that existed. Be great, be bold, be fair, and above all, be honest. Some will love you, others will hate you, but they will know who you really are. Fight this fight in a way that will be unforgettable to those who had the privilege to watch. I won't miss a second of this great match."
On The MMA Hour, Renzo also felt the Sonnen may not have been 100 percent mentally in the fight:
"In the first round he completely dominated, and it shows the caliber of fighter he is. He was mounted in the first round. I know him, he could've done it for the five rounds if it was necessary. But when you end up getting lost in the media frenzy of talking trash and promoting the fight and insulting people, you end up losing the focus of the job that you have and the task you have ahead of you. When you hit that wall -- and fighting Anderson is always going to be tough -- so when you hit that wall of toughness, if you're mind is not 100 percent there, it's difficult to keep it up. In reality, I thought that's what happened to him. Even though he had all the tools, his mind wasn't there 100 percent."
Silva went on to defeat Chael in the second round via second round technical knockout (TKO), and in the process, put an end to one of the most heated feuds in mixed martial arts (MMA) history.
What say you, are you surprised that all it took was a phone call from Renzo to tone Sonnen's trash talking down?