Chael Sonnen, the top UFC middleweight contender, has credited hypnosis with his success. As a professional hypnotist, I’ve worked with and helped many performers and athletes, including a number of martial artists and MMA type fighters along with dancers, golfers, swimmers, runners, and more, so I know how an athlete’s mental focus is important to success.
Sonnen, a controversial figure in his own right, discussed his turn to sports psychology and hypnosis in an episode of The Joe Rogan Experience and went into detail on the ups and downs of his career and how he believes hypnosis and focused mental practice turned things around for him.
As Adam Guillen Jr. characterizes him:
Chael Sonnen is one of the most polarizing figures in mixed martial arts (MMA) today. With his quick wit, razor-sharp tongue and knack for selling a fight, or just simply telling it like it is, Chael has transformed himself into one of the most talked about fighters in the sport.
When not bashing Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva and his relevance to MMA, Sonnen entertains fans and media alike with his wrestling-style promos and stand-up comedy when answering most of the questions aimed at the “American Gangster.”
So when the number one 185-pound contender gives an interview or makes an appearance, be it on a radio show, press conference or nationally televised program, fans tune in, ready to be entertained with cleverly expressed sound bytes.
Ahead of his highly-anticipated rematch against “The Spider,” which is set to go down on July 7, 2012 at UFC 148 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Sonnen made an appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience.”
During his time spent with Rogan, a very honest Sonnen strayed away from his usual comedic punch lines and revealed a “secret” he says he’s been carrying with him for some time and showed a rather different side of the rabble rousing republican.
The secret, says Sonnen, is the reason why he went from a talented top 10 level fighter, to the number one middleweight contender you see today.
Here is the interview:
Jared Jones has a worthwhile response:
As has become public knowledge by this point, there are two sides to Chael Sonnen. Two sides that, while vastly different from one another, combine to form a charismatic, well-spoken, yet incredibly polarizing mixed martial artist. The fact that Sonnen manages to effortlessly shift between these two paradigms when hyping a fight, giving a post-fight interview, or relentlessly tearing apart a Canadian reporter is only a testament to his ability to enthrall while repelling, to pique one’s interest while simultaneously drawing their ire. This may sound like a bit of “nut-hugging” as the MMA blogosphere likes to so eloquently put it, but there’s no denying that Sonnen is truly a unique individual, and one who could sell a ketchup Popsicle to a woman in white gloves without batting an eye.
But the Chael Sonnen that sat down with Joe Rogan as part of his infamous (as far as podcasts go) “The Joe Rogan Experience” was not the fight-hyping, pro rasslin’ “Oregon Gangster” that many fans can’t bear the sight of. Instead, for over two and a half hours, Rogan managed a feat that perhaps no other interviewer, journalist, or low-level blogger has even come close to: He managed to bring out the sincerity in Chael Sonnen.
And it was nothing short of fascinating.
Not fascinating in a “what’s he going to say next?” kind of way, but rather in a “man behind the myth” kind of way, and to put it simply, it stands above any other Chael Sonnen interview I personally have ever seen. The two dished on everything from Sonnen’s turning point as an MMA fighter (which came as a result of hypnotherapy, believe it or not), to Dan Severn’s infamously terrible work against Shannon Ritch, to Chris Leben’s batshit crazy childhood. But none of it felt forced, or fabricated. The Chael Sonnen that sat down with Rogan was endearing, empathetic, and above all else, realistic, and a kudos is due to Rogan for managing to bring that out of him.
Take this tidbit, in which Rogan asks Chael what he honestly would have expected had his rematch against Anderson Silva taken place in front of the eighty-some thousand fans in Rio as originally planned:
It would’ve been a scene. I don’t think they could’ve controlled it. They swore that they could, they’d have presidential security there, they were planning on having the President of Brazil there, so they’d have their secret service. It’s like, ‘guys, you can’t do it.’ There was just a soccer game and 73 were trampled to death. You can’t control a crowd when they decide to storm, you just can’t. It’s displaced responsibility. You can’t control that, especially when I’m the main event. And the relevance to that is, it means the beer started pouring five hours earlier. So now your not only talking about an insightful crowd, you’re talking about a drunk crowd.
Rogan pushed on, asking Sonnen what he thought would have happened had he beat Silva in his home country, and it was here that Sonnen truly opened up.
I think it would have been bad. I think it would have been very, very bad. And I would not have backed off one bit. Because I’m not gonna change; I’m gonna dance with the one that brought me. I’m going to be aggressive, I’m going to be in your face…I’m going to do my job as soon as Bruce Buffer gets out of my way. And I can’t change, I don’t know how to change. This is what I’m programmed to do. I hate to talk like one of those maniacs, ‘I’d have given my life blah blah blah,’ but Joe, I swear to you, hand to God, I’d have given my life to win that championship if I had to.
Let’s not forget, this isn’t tough guy talk. I signed the contract to go to Brazil to do the fight, and in my heart I thought, ‘I don’t know how this is gonna go.’ I made my mother promise she wouldn’t go. My mother doesn’t get it, she’s an older woman. She’s got a ruby or a diamond on every finger, you know, you don’t go into South America like that, let alone a fight. It was just one of those deals, but look, this is what I’m gonna do.
One response to the Sonnen revelations that I found particularly interesting was that by Alex Williams, whose response is of particular interest in that he is both a contributor to MMA magazines but he is also a doctoral student in psychology so presumably he should know a bit of what he is talking about. However, in the Williams piece he goes out of his way to deconstruct Sonnen’s claims in such a way as to belittle hypnosis as poof and nonsense and chalk it up to suggestion and perhaps a bit of gullibility. It seems that Williams prescribes to outdated academic understanding of hypnosis that was long disproven in the last century. Yes, of course, suggestion takes an important role in hypnosis . . . it’s a key factor but it is not all that hypnosis is. Likewise, when in hypnosis discussions we use terms like suggestion we’re not simply talking about gentle requests, there is a psychological function going on that is far more powerful than mere conversational requests and the like. Williams is meshing a whole bunch of things together that are not normally discussed in the way he is claiming they should be understood. Hypnosis does work AND hypnosis employs psychological suggestion which is a phenomenon of critical factor bypass and non-critical acceptance. Of course it requires trance partner consent and cooperation, this in no way invalidates the phenomenon. Williams seems to think that anyone discussing hypnosis is expecting it to employ Mesmeric magnetism or the total control of Svengali . . . uhm, that sort of nonsense is from a few centuries ago. Modern hypnotists employ influence, social psychology, psychological suggestion and more in order to genuinely help clients.
The Williams article is worth reading, although he oversimplifies therapeutic effect in order to hammer his point . . . based upon an agenda to dismiss that which he so obviously misunderstands.
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