Chael Sonnen: From heel to hero?

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Ever since Chael Sonnen thrust himself into the spotlight with his dominant performance against Anderson Silva at UFC 117, he's become one of the biggest villains in MMA. His relentless trash talk and the fact he's received preferential treatment from the UFC has a lot to do with the hostility some MMA fans harbor towards him. 

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Chael Sonnen and rival Anderson Silva pose at a press conference. (MMAWeekly)

However, Sonnen -- who is coaching opposite Jon Jones in the 17th season of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality TV series -- has been surprisingly well-behaved lately, and he's actually starting to change the way many of his biggest detractors perceive him.

While most expected Sonnen to continue with his regular shenanigans on TUF 17, "The American Gangster" switched things up, instead showing more of his real personality. He's proving to be a caring, dedicated coach, who doesn't have any problems sharing his biggest fears with his pupils.

Sonnen has been cordial with Jones -- who he'll fight for the light-heavyweight title on April 27 at UFC 159 -- and he's even proclaimed "Bones" is the best fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship's history, better than Silva.

"I think there's a big gap between them," Sonnen said during an interview with Jay Mohr. "I think that Jon Jones is considerably better, I think he's the best talent our sport has ever seen. … Jon comes out there with something new every time. Some trick that it appears he's making up. Stuff I've never seen."

[Also: Michael McDonald has faith he can become UFC's youngest champ]

Interesting comments from Sonnen, considering the fact his two attempts to dethrone Silva didn't go so well. He's was stopped twice by a guy he considers to be second best, which means he'll be in over his head at UFC 159 if Jones is indeed the greatest MMA fighter in the world.

Sonnen had a lot of harsh things to say about Jones after the UFC 151 fiasco (Jon turned him down as a last minute replacement for Dan Henderson), but he warmed up to the youngest champion in the UFC's history during the filming of TUF 17.

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Chael Sonnen exercises during a training session. (Getty)

"I did have a problem with Jon Jones," Sonnen explained. "I picked a fight with him because I wanted to fight him. You know, I got to know him. I got to know him on the set of "The Ultimate Fighter," and I do like him. I had misread him, and he's a very nice gentleman. But that doesn't change anything. I'm a competitor, he's a competitor. … I can't change the fact that it turns out he's a really likable guy."

While Chael is being a lot more civilized than he normally is heading into a fight (to be fair, he's been respectful to most of his opponents besides Silva), he still plans to bring relentless pressure come fight time. As always, the man from the "mean streets" of West Linn, Oregon, vows to bring his A-game.

"I am 100 percent offense and from the second the referee says, 'go.' I will. I will come across and I will bring the fight to him," Sonnen added. "I may go down, he's a good fighter... I may go down, but I promise you; I will go like a gangster and I will be firing the entire time."

David is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and boxing practitioner who has watched and studied MMA for the past eight years. Follow him on Twitter @davidkingwriter and check out his blog.

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