Chael Sonnen: How to be a star

Monday, October 07, 2013

Jon Fitch and Yushin Okami were released by the UFC while still in the top 10 in the world. Jake Shields, who fights a surging Demian Maia and the odds on Wed may be in danger of being cut if he loses. UFC president Dana White has the loser of Frank Mir vs. Alistair Overeem in Feb may be cut.

As MMAFighting’s Shaun Al-Shatti points out, Shields, Fitch, and Okami are all grinders, former title challengers who fell short, in their mid-to-late thirties. The same could be said for Chael Sonnen, but he is not going anywhere, because he is a star.

In a detailed interview, he explains why, as much as anyone can.

Shaun Al-Shatti: For the older guys, it seems like being a star or a fan favorite is the only way to truly feel safe right now. And in the case of Shields, like Okami, he’s not at all a star, even despite winning every fight but two since 2005. If winning doesn’t do it, what makes fighters enter that rarified air?

Chael Sonnen: You never know. If you were to ask me, ‘Hey Chael, what’s it take to be a star in the UFC?’ I could give you a pretty good guess, but that’s all it would be. I don’t really know.

Every year there’s something called a Fighter Summit. And the very first one we went to, Dana White touched on this topic, and I’ll quote Dana, because he was right. Dana said, ‘I don’t know what it takes to be a star. It’s a very strange formula.’ You take a guy like Conor McGregor, it’s overnight. You take a guy like Brock Lesnar, he just walks into the spot.

But the one constant the stars have is they win their fights. Every time you win, you get another fight. Every time you get a fight, you get promotion, marketing and media. Those things are what makes stars. It’s the same thing with football. It’s not whoever throws the most touchdowns. It’s whoever makes it on ESPN or FOX Sports 1 the most that becomes the most famous quarterback. That’s just how it works.

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