Chael Sonnen (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

No Kayfabe: Trash Talk Should Be More Organic in MMA

Kamaru Usman may blame UFC President Dana White for misconstruing his “30 percent” comment during his post-fight rant, but Usman is the one who uttered those silly words. In today’s MMA landscape, it seems almost necessary for an athlete to excel in the “art” of trash talk to really get ahead of the game. Some do it better than others.

Look no further than the rumored co-headliner of UFC 224 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where Rafael dos Anjos is expected to fight Colby Covington for the interim welterweight title. Based on his work inside the Octagon, the former lightweight champion dos Anjos is deserving of this opportunity. The fighting merit of Covington is not quite as convincing at this point, but his willingness to come off like a scumbag on social media is must-see stuff and, most importantly, it keeps people talking about him.

When a fighter tries to be something they’re not, it’s hard to watch. Usually, people can see straight through all the BS. So, when Usman, Leon Edwards or anyone else takes to the mic post-fight and goes full-on WWE, it comes off as scripted. However, MMA has never been about kayfabe.


If you’re an aspiring mixed martial artist, you better spend a fair amount of time in front of a mirror practicing your mic skills. One promising MMA fighter I spoke with mentioned how he had taken acting lessons in preparation for his fighting career. Let that sink in: he took acting lessons to help further his career in combat sports. What has the sport come to?

When a fighter like Conor McGregor comes along and turns everything upside down, I’m all in. The difference between McGregor and the aforementioned fighters is that the Irishman doesn’t force anything. When he talks, that’s McGregor being himself. He is the rare exception that doesn’t need to spend hours in front of the mirror. He could teach the class on trash-talking 101.

Chael Sonnen. Nick and Nate Diaz. Dominick Cruz. All of these men are great trash-talking fighters who can back it up inside the cage. Trash talk is great, and I love it when fighters can back their words up with more than just clever comebacks. Yet, trash talk needs to happen naturally. It needs to be organic.

Sometimes winning alone isn’t enough. Sometimes a fighter needs that little extra something to put them over the top. That’s fine. However, fighters need to really think about what they are going to say before they say it. Don’t be like Kamaru Usman.