Chael Sonnen became appalled watching the post-fight interview Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis had in 2002 when he heard Tyson say his behavior leading up to the boxing match was all for promotional purposes.
"And I thought, wow, if that's true, then you owe me and you owe everybody that bought this fight their money back because you just sold us something fraudulently," Sonnen said. "You're not only a liar, but you're a thief. You just stole all of our money fraudulently."
Sonnen, a 36-year-old UFC fighter from Oregon, is known for his bombastic personality and candid interviews, which often draw comparisons to pro wrestling promos. Last year, he penned a book, and its introductory pages instruct readers to grab a pen and dictionary because "the traditional education system has failed you." The sociology degree holder from the University of Oregon has no issue with dissing his contemporaries, if circumstances warrant, as well.
Yet "trash-talker" is a label he doesn't prefer. He said it's artificial.
"I don't talk trash and I don't like guys who do," the outspoken light heavyweight said. "I'm not a car salesman. I'm not going to sell anybody anything if it's not real. I don't do that and I will never do that. I will never manufacture conflict. I will never make something up."
That's why Sonnen (28-13-1) has been surprisingly flattering when it comes to Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (21-7), his opponent in the UFC Fight Night 26 main event in Boston on Saturday. Sonnen said he's genuinely a fan of the former UFC champion and doesn't deem it necessary to insult him for the sake of selling the fight.
"There are very few true legends in this sport that are still competing, but this guy is a true legend," Sonnen said. "He's had some real wars and some real difficult fights against excellent opponents. And above all, in a sport that's filled with jerks, I find him refreshing to be around."
Then, the Muhammad Ali of MMA -- at least as far as talking goes -- couldn't hold back.
"Speaking of jerks," Sonnen added, "he surrounds himself with a few and namely, Wanderlei Silva. If you go play in the mud, you're going to get dirty."
Sonnen has called Silva "the worst fighter in the UFC" and taken plenty of verbal shots at the Pride legend. Sonnen's remarks reportedly have gotten under the skin of Shogun, Silva's friend and Brazilian countryman. Sonnen insists the fight is "just good, solid competition."
And whether fans tune in to watch for free on the new Fox Sports 1 despite the lack of Sonnen-esque barbs toward a competitor is solely up to the customer, which is totally fine with Sonnen.
Sonnen is fighting in hopes of stopping his losing streak. After back-to-back championship fight losses against Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, Sonnen seems OK with letting his fighting do most of the talking this time.
"I became the UFC's highest paid fighter and I became the UFC's biggest draw but that was never my intent," Sonnen said. "My intent was solely to be a competitor."