Book Review: ‘Voice of Reason’ Shows the Many Sides of Chael Sonnen | UFC NEWS
President Richard M. Nixon, of the Watergate era, “ran with a bit of a rough crowd.” The Earth is getting warmer, “but it’s called summer, and it’s not your fault.” Actor Christian Bale’s famed on-set Terminator Salvation rant “made the world a better place.” And every great president from George Washington to Dwight D. Eisenhower was not only a Republican — but also an accomplished wrestler.
Ladies and gentlemen, you’re now entering the world of Chael P. Sonnen. The P is for “Perfection.” You can call him Uncle Chael, the True UFC Middleweight Champion, or my personal favorite, “Unka ChaCha.” His words, not mine.
“The Voice of Reason: A VIP Pass to Enlightenment” delivers Sonnen at his unconstrained, unbridled best. The book is equal parts politics, personal reflection and pugilism, all served up with a healthy dose of self aggrandizement. (Case in point, the book’s foreword is ostensibly written by Jesus Christ). But what you will not find here is self pity, as Chael says at one point “you can either be pitied or respected, but not both.” He’s shooting for the latter.
The book follows no real blueprint or narrative. It’s simply a piecing together of several disparate articles covering topics ranging from the pains of cutting weight, to the “mean streets” of West Linn, Oregon, to the Occupy movement, to Sonnen’s loss to Anderson Silva, to the nonexistence of Santa Claus.
Just as in real life, Sonnen completely contradicts himself throughout the book. Talking about a friend’s father at one point, he says “I don’t know if I would go so far as to agree with him, but he’s absolutely right.” Much of what Sonnen says, however, is tongue-in-cheek. He knows we’re in on the joke. He knows that we know that not everything he says can be taken literally. Conversely, sometimes he’ll tell you what he really feels, with the hopes that you’ll take it as a joke, as more bluster. Such are the complexities of Chael Sonnen.
Sonnen uses this is-he-being-serious-or-not? literary technique to great effect. He’ll have you know that country music has no place in mixed martial arts as any sort of walk-out music (and the fact that he walks out to country music is “none of your damn business”). You should be aware that athletes frequently lie and aren’t to be trusted (but did he tell you about the time he was hanging out with Greg Jackson and stopped a mugging on the day he was to fight for the title?). And you really need to understand how much he thinks social media is stupid and a waste of time (and you can follow him on Twitter at @sonnench).
But beyond the silly, Sonnen also offers up some personal observations. Many are humorous, such as his reflections on Egypt: “I’m not a big fan of Egypt, simply because of the buildings shaped like triangles there, and after my fight with Anderson, I have come to hate all things that have anything to do with that horrible geometrical form.” Others are sincere: “The kid is getting an autograph and a picture with me … and you know what? I walk away feeling like I got the better part of that deal.”
Sonnen opens up about his money laundering conviction: “My political career, which I was hoping to begin full-time after I retired from MMA, is shattered. Any good I could do, any positive change I could have potentially made as a member of government, is gone.” And he talks candidly about the testosterone replacement therapy scandal: “My reputation was ruined and the whole ordeal was absolutely humiliating.” But he doesn’t let either of these events define him.
Sonnen wants you to view him as a man who loves his late father, who is committed to the sport of wrestling, and who wants to do good and leave an impression on the world in spite of the setbacks, legal and otherwise, that he’s faced. The only real outlet to accomplish this goal at this stage of his life, he admits, is fighting. This is why he throws absolutely every ounce of strength and passion he has into his MMA career, and will continue to as long as his body allows it.
Fans of Sonnen will like this book, and critics of Sonnen may find a few admissions — or even a few humanizing moments — they like as well. But love him or hate him, you will be forced to acknowledge him, to recognize the accomplishments of Chael P. Sonnen. He won’t have it any other way.