His submission win over Mauricio Rua at UFC Fight Night 26 last night (Sat., Aug. 17, 2013) from TD Bank Garden in Boston, Mass., was a respectable win over a badly faded former champion, helping kick-off FOX Sports 1's network debut. This followed Sonnen's entirely undeserved title shot at Light Heavyweight champ Jon Jones, which was the prize for Sonnen's coaching The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17, where his presence was entirely based on his ability to boost the show's ratings, which were lagging.
Okay ... we get it.
Sonnen's good for business, and a kind of fire-extinguisher/fire-start the UFC can use when it needs a promotional boost. UFC has often flirted with this kind of stuff, reaching various low points with garbage like Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz 3, only to back away from the ledge, thankfully, once the horse was effectively beaten to near-death.
But, as the promotion moves toward more mainstream audiences, it doesn't do anyone favors to foist up stuff like Chael Sonnen vs. Mauricio Rua, Chael Sonnen vs. Jon Jones or a possible Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva bout and pass it off as a credible main event.
If that's fine with them, then why not put on Anderson Silva vs. Roy Jones Jr. for a boxing exhibition on the under card?
Memo to mixed martial arts (MMA) fans: Jones Jr.'s prime was a decade ago, anyways. It's not like you're getting him fresh. And he'd still kick the crap out of any non-Heavyweight in the UFC in a boxing match, despite this. This is like boxing fans calling for one of the Klitschkos to take on Mark Coleman.
The shame of this ongoing flirtation with the freak-show approach is that Sonnen is also a pretty good fighter. And it's time to get him back on track where he belongs in the Middleweight division in fights with legitimate stakes in play.
Afterward, in a typically bizarre interview with wreeked of pro wrestling weirdness, Sonnen called out Wanderlei Silva, which is a fight that makes little sense from a contention standpoint. The faded Brazilian, like Sonnen, carries marquee appeal, but has lost four of his last seven bouts.
With Chris Weidman now ruling the 185-pound division, and set to rematch Anderson Silva at UFC 168 on Dec. 28, 2013. It's a far better move to pit Sonnen against a Vitor Belfort, which would be a fantastic bout, and something you could base a five-round main event on entirely on its own merits.
Which is the reason UFC got to where it was in the first place. Real fighters, real fights and a sense of meritocracy driving the match ups. Remember that?
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst