Since returning to the Octagon from a two-year absence in 2020, Strickland has quickly risen up the 185-pound ladder, developing both his status as a contender and prominence across the fanbase in the process. But while his fighting has certainly done some talking, his mouth has done a significant amount more.
Before and after his latest victory, a five-round decision triumph over Jack Hermansson at UFC Vegas 47, “Tarzan” put his controversial nature on full display. In the past, Strickland has drawn flak for his remarks about homosexuality and apparent desire to kill a fellow fighter.
While some praise the #6-ranked middleweight for his lack of censorship and willingness to speak his mind, others believe he routinely crosses the line.
Sonnen Thinks Strickland Is Going In The Wrong Direction
Perhaps surprisingly, one man who has warned Strickland about the path he’s going down is Sonnen. Not many fighters have played up to a ‘heel’ character quite like the former middleweight and light heavyweight contender.
But while he acknowledges the need to accentuate a character in order to rise the ranks, the 44-year-old has suggested it’s time for Strickland to tone it down now that he’s reached title contention.
During a recent video uploaded to his YouTube channel, Sonnen warned Strickland that he’s misinterpreting the laughter from fans and pundits as support. Instead, the Oregon native believes many are uncomfortable with the 30-year-old’s antics and are usually laughing at him, not with him.
“Sean is a character, man. He’s doing a gimmick, he’s a character, he’s an entertainer. It makes me nervous,” said Sonnen. “I think he’s going in the wrong direction. I think there was a time for that, to get some focus, to get some attention, to get the better fights, to work your way up the card. Once you get there, you can now go down main street.
“There’s always room for a straight man, for sure. You start playing that game, and I made a living playing that game, it’s a risky one,” added Sonnen. “I think Sean makes some people uncomfortable. I know everyone’s laughing and everyone’s cheering him on, but I don’t think they’re really supporting him. I think they’re laughing at him. I think they’re in shock at what he’s doing. I think he’s misinterpreting it.”
Interestingly, Strickland has followed a different route. Rather than playing up to a character in order to rise the MMA ladder, Strickland recently suggested he suppressed his personality early in his career in order to ensure he was signed by the UFC. Now that he’s at the top, he feels the freedom to say what he wants.
Sonnen is not the first to speak out against Strickland’s mindset and controversial statements. Last week, top-five contender Derek Brunson criticized “Tarzan” for his remarks, suggesting he hopes his UFC peer can change his ways soon.
Given Strickland’s recent posts on social media, and promise to go “full McGregor” if he becomes champion, an adjustment or alteration seems unlikely.
Do you agree with Chael Sonnen? Should Sean Strickland adjust his attitude?