Around MMA Supertown: Chael’s Octagon

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Chael’s House- On Saturday the 28th, mma fans outside of MMA Supertown got a taste of what we, in Portland have always known; Chael Sonnen is the next UFC World Champion.

After a satisfying fight against a great challenger a lot of us could not have felt more entertained or vindicated than when Chael hijacked Joe Rogan’s after fight interview with a perfect pitch, heat-of-the-moment rant that brought spontaneity back to the Octagon. After all, Joe, what did you expect? Some meaningful quote, some profound insight to ‘hav[ing] never been hit so hard in my life’, as Chael said later to those who really cared. I mean, how many times can a guy get so close to the dream, just to have it yanked back from him- by fair means, or not- and, when, after having being vilified and thrown under the bus, is expected to flip on the nice guy switch for a cozy after-the-gut-wrenching- fight ‘chit chat’? When Chael took command of that microphone and made his case for ‘Chael’s Octagon’, then turned and stalked out of the cage to give his girlfriend, then his mom, a hug before exiting with his Team Quest crew, well, back in his hometown- back in Chael’s House- we understood what he meant.

Maybe this is not an article only about Chael, but about his fans and about the people who have watched him forge his path. Maybe this article is, as well, a little bit about what it meant to the Portland fight family to watch Chael Sonnen win against Michael Bisping. Any MMA fight family understands how battling ahead through adversity-even after triumph, and into another setback- is not always pretty and not always tied in a nice package. And, by ‘Chael’s House’ I mean the Rumble, yes, but in the larger sense of the mma ‘house’ in Oregon. It’s sometimes easy to forget that Chael stands for more than just his own journey. His story broadened the horizons for many others with his father’s trail blazing win for the sanctioning of mma through the State of Oregon Athletic Commission.

So when I talk of Chael’s House I mean in one sense the stature of mma in Oregon and the question that will forever linger, Would Team Quest have found synergy in the Couture/Henderson/Lindland trifecta if there’d been no sanctioned place to showcase their gym’s talent? Certainly Matt Thornton and SBI had a big part in that meet up. And the Portland environment was plumbed and ready to go, including Couture’s coaching at OSU, with U of O’s top wrestling talent peppering the area with athletes, and the proliferation of the Bruce Lee legend out Seattle, and more. Certainly, the whole story is never told with just one man, but convergence counts. That convergence was tipped over into the sanctioning of mma fighting in Oregon as we know it largely due to a father, hearing a son’s dream, and taking the next step to help make it happen.

Chael’s enduring friendship with the Rumble’s co-founder, Kevin Keeney is part of the story that we all understood, too, when Chael shoved the mike back at Rogan, turned, and stalked out of the Octagon. Because Rumble is a story of two friends where each stokes the wind necessary for the other to fly, of two friends with a commitment to an idea they formed; Kevin and Chael walked the walk, and talked their talk. Kevin’s mastering of college wrestling led to his Mastering in Education so he could teach at every level of his knowledge; and Chael’s mastering of the fight and the business behind the sport enabled him to compete at every level of his knowledge. Everyone they touch- and that is a lot of people- are able to share in their process, are able to share in that meaning Chael sent out to the world, from ‘Chael’s Octagon’, about riding the thunder, and holding the moment because you have earned it.

After a stellar college athletic career and a brush with Olympic glory, a path, through family tragedy and political defeat, down a long trail highlighted with international Bodog FIGHT fame and a WEC triumph that ended in frustration Chael did not waver. His UFC career was built on a relentless push to the top, capped by a distracting year of setbacks and sanctioning that felt like he’d been crushed from the field forever, only to end with him returned to his seat at the top of the UFC roster. Chael Sonnen is a survivor. And if only for that reason, Chael Sonnen is a people’s fighter. Call him by whatever ‘handle’ is fun for marketing purposes, make what you will of his sharp edged commentary for the public, but his meaning was heard clearly when Chael out muscled Joe Rogan’s usual mastery over the mike to claim, for that moment, the UFC’s Octagon as Chael Sonnen’s Octagon. That claim was built on solid foundations of years spent in a daily commitment to his goal, and contributions to his community; his foundations are built strong with his legacy of the FCFF’s Rumble at the Roseland, and the next generation of fighters who earn their confidence in the Slammer; his foundations are deep through his devotion to his family, and a natural generosity that has earned Chael the support from any who stand near enough to feel the warmth of his achievement. His foundation is strong, strong enough his back his claim because he doesn’t just ‘talk’, he brings it, he walks over and through wherever is necessary to show everyone else what MMA Supertown already knows, that Chael Sonnen is the next, UFC World Champion and he’ll be travelling all the way to Brazil to make sure everyone else in the world hears about it. Yeah, we’re fans of Chael Sonnen here at the Rumble and at MMA Supertown. How could it be any different?

So Joe, how does it feel to stand next to Chael Sonnen, in Chael Sonnen’s Octagon? We can tell you, back here at Rumble at the Roseland, in MMA Supertown… it feels great!