LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 30: Host and mixed martial artist Chael Sonnen arrives at the Fighters Only World Mixed Martial Arts Awards 2011 at the Palms Casino Resort November 30, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
As we reported here on Cageside a few weeks ago, Chael Sonnen asked CM Punk to walk to the cage with him for his UFC on Fox 2 fight against Michael Bisping this Sat., Jan. 28, 2012, at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Originally, everything appeared to be all systems clear with Punk getting the day off from a house show and Sonnen getting approval from the higher ups with the UFC.
Then word came down that Vince McMahon had pulled the plug on the whole thing and he would no longer allow Punk to even attend the show as a fan. And really, it's no surprise he did so.
The news that Punk was walking out with Sonnen caused a few ripples within the MMA media and now Ariel Helwani gets the answer as to why Sonnen ever wanted to walk out with him in the first place:
"1) We're friends, 2) I really like him, 3) It's his hometown, 4) He's a big UFC fan, and 5) There's major crossover. A number of years ago, I think we all thought we were going to have to compete with each other; boxing, MMA and wrestling were going to have to have their own fans and what we've learned with time is it's not true. People are crossover fans and just kind of all around fans, especially when you're talking about CM Punk here in Chicago, that guy is royalty around here. I think it would have been fun for both of us."
It's nice to finally hear a prominent member of the mixed martial arts world acknowledge the crossover appeal of WWE and UFC, especially considering the fact that so many attempt to shun the notion and treat it as though it has no merit.
The reality of the situation now is that Brock Lesnar is retired and Georges St. Pierre is injured and possibly out until November of this year. That means Chael P. Sonnen could be the biggest star on the UFC roster right now. That puts extra weight behind these words. When considering how influential he's proven to be to the fanbase he's spent so much time cultivating, one can't help but wonder what this will mean going forward.
That's not to say there will be any sort of deals cut between the two companies. Quite the contrary, in fact, as the two have remained mostly cordial with each other while maintaining as much distance as possible. But with Sonnen openly acknowledging the link between the two and cutting promos in his interviews like he's Hulk Hogan, it's safe to assume more and more fighters will follow his lead and lend themselves more to the entertainment side of the business.
Cash is still king, folks, and there's a lot of money to be made when you can cut a hell of a promo. The future of MMA could be a bunch of Sonnen knockoffs looking to maximize their value. And when they're working for as little at $6,000 starting out, they have every reason to want to increase their brand.
Watch Sonnen's full interview with Helwani after the jump. Helwani leads him into his Hogan-style promo at the end where he puts over how big his arms are and how much harm he's going to do to Bisping Saturday night.