When it comes to the MMA career of Chael Sonnen, identifying a turning point in which the gifted talker realized his mouth could take him even further than his ability to fight is something "The American Gangster" isn't willing to cop to.
"I never thought of it and I don't like it," Sonnen told CBS Sports last week. "There's no title for that. There's no title for being most entertaining and selling more t-shirts and pay-per-views than anybody. I'm proud of it and I brag on the outside, but inside it doesn't do a damn thing for me."
Sonnen,to preview his return at last Saturday's Bellator 192 card, out-wrestled former UFC champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in a unanimous decision win. The victory saw the 40-year-old , which will crown a vacant heavyweight champion.
Instead of celebrating his own ability to talk people into buildings as one of the greatest talkers in MMA history, Sonnen (31-15-1) prefers to only think of himself as a fighter.
"I've traveled around the world to grappling events as a competitor simply because a guy said he wanted to wrestle me," Sonnen said. "It's not about the money for me and I don't blame the guys that it is. Some guys are just a bunch of dumb-dumbs and that's what this sport attracts and they don't have any other way to make a living. I'm not begrudging anyone; but for me, I'm just a competitor."
Sonnen, who went on to reveal that he turned down an offer by WWE to appear in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32 in 2016, also said he doesn't envision a day in which he'll use his gift of gab and shoot-fighting background to cross over into pro wrestling.
"I don't think so and I kind of pissed those guys off," Sonnen said. "I was asked to be a contestant in a [battle royal] and I wasn't against it, but I just couldn't get the date. I actually worked hard and I tried to clear it. I tried to do it but [WWE] thought I blew them off. I haven't really heard back and whenever they come to down, they invite me and give me and some friends some really good tickets and we have a real blast."
Sonnen, who retired for three years in 2014 following a second failed drug test, was serving a suspension when WWE made the offer. But it wasn't the first time Sonnen admitted to talks between the two parties.
In 2014, during an episode of his podcast "You're Welcome," Sonnen revealed he had turned down a $5 million offer from Vince McMahon and withheld the information from UFC.
Despite the similarities between the trash talk Sonnen typically delivers to opponents and the kind of promos heard on WWE, the former UFC middleweight and light heavyweight title challenger doesn't consider himself a huge admirer of today's product.
"My fandom of that sport is greatly overrated," Sonnen said. "I enjoyed it a lot in the '80s with Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. My buddy Justin and I dressed up as Demolition in sixth grade for Halloween but I kind of went away. I came back for Stone Cold and The Rock, but then when everything happened with CM Punk, I kind of went away again. I watch WrestleMania every year and if they come to town, I go and sit as close to the ring as I can and I cheer and have a great time, but that's kind of where that is."
Sonnen may try to downplay the legacy of his mouth while attempting to extend his fighting career into his 40s, the same way former training partners Randy Couture and Dan Henderson did. But when it comes to the idea that today's top mouthpiece in combat sports, Conor McGregor, may have learned a thing or two from watching him, Sonnen agrees.
"Yes, and I take that as a compliment," Sonnen said. "And I think Conor read the book but he ran with it. Conor has rewritten some chapters and he has done a fantastic job and he's brilliant because he never breaks character. I used to not do that either. I kayfabed it the whole way through to anybody.
"I'm not a great actor so to stay with that and keep that chip on your shoulder all times, it starts to convolute and become part of your real life and it was something that I had to go in and out and drop it a little. Conor never drops the shtick. He has got the mob after him right now and he's still barking and I assure you he's hiding somewhere scared to death but he won't do it publicly and there's a real brilliance in that. A true magician never shows his tricks and I really admire the way Conor does it.
"But to act like he wasn't influenced [by me]? Sure he was. But I was influenced by others too. It's like music, there are only so many notes."