(Smallwood’s “question” begins around the 2:00 mark.)
Maybe it’s the newlywed bliss, maybe its the fact that he is coming off two of the more embarrassing losses of his career*, but in recent months it appears as if a new, more humble Chael Sonnen has emerged. Aside from calling Lil Nog a “chicken” — which is perhaps the finest compliment he has ever paid to a Nogueira — Sonnen has been flying relatively under the radar in regards to his upcoming fight with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC on Fox Sports 1:1. It’s almost as if he fears, nay, RESPECTS the Brazilian! (*record scratch*)
But just as the scorpion must sting the frog, Chael Sonnen must taunt the troll.
You peons can’t possibly understand what it is like, having so many awesome insults to use and so little time to use them. And worse, having so. many. jabronis to use them on — it’s exhausting. It’s also why the former middleweight title challenger, the current FOX commentator and UFC Tonight Host, the dancing destroyer, the king of sting…decided to test out a bunch of new burns on a fan (2-3 fighter Bill Smallwood) who dared question his place in the UFC at a Q&A in Las Vegas over the weekend, resulting in a rant that ended with Sonnen using what some would consider a racial slur and threatening to whip said fans ass. As you would expect, the attending audience loved it.
As you would also expect, some people — like Deadspin’s Tim Marchman — are losing their shit over this. Not only does he label Sonnen “an asshole**” for his use of the word “ghetto,” but he even goes as far as to note that the man Sonnen insulted is not African American, for some reason:
I emailed with Bill Smallwood, and he told me he didn’t find it weird that Fox Sports pundit Chael Sonnen would rant at him about speaking ghetto. Smallwood isn’t black, in any case. He’s a Native American Jew—”I am NATIVE AMERICAN & JEWISH,” he wrote, adding that while he doesn’t speak ghetto he has learned Russian, Hebrew, Farsi, Arabic, Tagalog, French, Portuguese, and Spanish—but whatever.
I find it rather hilarious that, while trying to rake “Fox Sports pundit/middling professional fighter” Chael Sonnen over the coals for the smallest of offenses, Marchman allowed his own subconscious prejudice to rise to the surface. Because to him, “speaking ghetto” means “speaking ebonics” (or whatever “urban” antonym you prefer) and Sonnen was obviously taking an off base swipe at a man he thought was black. The problem is that, as one Deadspin commenter pointed out, the term “ghetto” was originally used in Venice, Italy “to describe a part of the city to which Jews were restricted and segregated.”
At worst, Sonnen made a relatively harmless, and again, completely off base joke about a guy who was only there to draw a reaction out of him in the first place. You prod the Gangster, you get the guns. At best, this Smallwood fellow was actually planted in the audience by Sonnen to stir up some controversy ahead of his bout with Shogun, with Sonnen of course knowing both the correct origin of “ghetto” and Smallwood’s ethnic background and combining the two into one hilariously-scripted public roasting. Considering the revelations about Lance Armstrong and “scumbag” Ken Shamrock Sonnen was willing to share with us years before we were ready to hear them, I’d say the latter is the more likely scenario here. Sonnen is truly the Jigsaw of trash-talking.
The damndest thing of it all is that Smallwood is simply wrong in his understanding of why Chael Sonnen continues to be a UFC employee. Sonnen can sell the shit out of a fight, sure, but he has also volunteered to bail the UFC out of a jam on more than one occasion. The 205 lb. kingpin everyone is afraid of? Sonnen will fight him on a day’s notice. The feared PRIDE killer and KO artist who just went the distance with the #1 contender? Sonnen’s your man when no one else can (copyright Sonnen ’16). There’s not a lot of other guys who are willing to do what Sonnen does, even in the highest echelon of the professional fighting world.
Does that excuse Sonnen’s somewhat extravagant behavior outside the ring? Not exactly, but if I didn’t expect to duel a man to the death, I wouldn’t slap him in the face with my glove either.
About the time I’m writing this, I expect that Sonnen is receiving a firm talking-to from the FOX overlords; the hypocrisy being that they likely hired Sonnen in the first place because of the controversial persona he had built up over the years making wild, unfounded statements. You can find their comment in the original Deadspin article, but I feel that this gif does an equally sufficient job:
So go ahead, insinuate that Sonnen is a racist for sinking to the level of a trollish fan. Matter of fact, do the same when he harmlessly asks to touch a black woman’s hair on Sportscenter. I, on the other hand, am going to continue embracing the self-aware circus act that is Chael Sonnen, the only man so confident in his beautifully crafted public persona that he can request that “GSP stop being a dick” in the terms of his new contract. It’s a lot more fun on this side of the white line is all I’m saying.
*If only because of the pure amount of smack he talked in the months/years leading up to them.
**Which, to be fair, is the exact image Sonnen has been trying to cultivate over the years.