Oh, Chael Sonnen, is there anything you won’t say or do? There was that time you gave out Stephanie McMahon’s phone number on live TV, that other time you pled guilty for testing positive for drugs then somehow got a job in an advisory role for said drug-testing program, and then just on Thursday, you announced you were returning to the cage for one more run, this time with Bellator.
Fans can never be sure what to believe from Chael Sonnen, but truth is frequently stranger than fiction. That said, on the newest episode of his podcast You’re Welcome with Chael Sonnen, the cage fighter proclaims, “This is the hottest story in MMA and it’s never been told” — and while we don’t entirely agree, it’s still a pretty juicy bit of gossip that is in no way, shape or form verifiable but who gives a sh*t, it’s the internet, right?
The story in question takes place during the week leading up to UFC 55 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, in October 2005 — coincidentally, Sonnen’s debut fight — but before we get there, Sonnen has to set the scene:
“In 2005, the UFC had just broken through[…] Ultimate Fighter comes out, it’s a huge success, changes everything. At that time, it was on Spike TV on Monday nights right after Raw. Vince McMahon called Dana White, and the problem Vince had was they were advertising The Ultimate Fighter during Raw. So Vince is saying to Dana privately, ‘Why would anybody watch my scripted show when they can just wait till it’s over to watch your real show? Stop advertising to my audience.’ And Dana shot with him and goes, ‘Vince, I’m on Spike, you’re on Spike, that’s where it ends. Who Spike decides to run the advertising and piggyback off of, it’s got nothing to do with me.’ […] Dana’s kinda sitting there going ‘I’m the wrong guy to be calling.'”
Okay, so Vince McMahon got a little chippy with Dana White over the phone. I think we all assumed that’s happened a handful of times throughout the years. But wait, Sonnen says, there’s more:
“The night I was going to fight on my debut, the heavyweight championship was on the line. Andrei Arlovski was the face of the company at that time […] He’s selling all the tickets. He’s gonna get $18,000 to show and $18,000 to win […] to headline a card with the biggest prize in all of sport.
That week, Vince McMahon contacts [UFC announcer] Mike Goldberg. He tells Mike Goldberg, ‘I will give you $100,000 to no-call, no-show the UFC on Friday. Vince tells him, ‘This call never happened; I will wire you the money on your word.’ Goldberg calls Dana and says ‘Here’s what happened.’ So Dana not only gives Goldberg a brand new, half-a-million-dollar contract, but right then realized, ‘If he’s willing to pay $100,000 for my announcer, who is replaceable, and I’m only paying my main event $18,000 and $18,000, I got a problem. This is a level of business play that I am just not ready for.'”
If true, this is some serious cold-blooded sh*t from the Chairman of the Board. But I guess when you have the deepest pockets in sports entertainment and the ability to hold grudges long past their expiration date, why not mess with your competition? There is a happy ending to this whole caper, though, as Sonnen concludes:
“Not only did Goldberg stay and not only did the business change, The Ultimate Fighter was never on Mondays again. It moved to Wednesdays and has never gone back.”
Of course, Dana White may have had the last laugh — not only did he swipe Brock Lesnar out from under McMahon earlier this year while he was still under WWE contract, he just made a boatload of money off of CM Punk’s UFC debut.