The champion lost his cool once again on Friday, now the only thing left to see is how Anderson Silva will react tonight when he actually fights Chael Sonnen in what could be the biggest bout in UFC history.
The mild-mannered UFC middleweight champ—who prior to last week’s bombshell promise to break every bone in Sonnen’s body, had pretty much refused to respond to the outspoken challenger’s antics since their first fight two years ago—lunged his shoulder into Sonnen’s chest and chin at the weigh-ins for the blockbuster UFC 148 card, which takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“I don’t respect Chael,” Silva said, as a record crowd of 8,000 fans inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center both cheered and booed the champ moments after UFC president Dana White and personnel separated the two fighters during their face-off photo.
“Chael doesn’t respect (anything). Chael doesn’t respect the UFC. Chael doesn’t respect my country. Tomorrow I’m going to fight.”
While Sonnen (27-11-1 MMA, 6-4 UFC) —who dominated the first match at UFC 117 in August 2010, before Silva (31-4 overall, 14-0 UFC) pulled off a late submission victory thanks to a triangle choke in the final minute of the fifth round—had delivered countless proclamations all week, the 35-year-old challenger from Oregon only smiled after the stare down and offered a simple retort.
“Champion vs. icon,” said Sonnen, who admitted to being 20 pounds overweight on Thursday but weighed in right at the 185-pound limit on Friday, while Silva came in at 184 pounds.
“Myth vs. legend. Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen. The fake guy vs. the bad guy. And only on PPV.”
While the UFC does not release its pay-per-view figures, White and UFC brass believe arguably the biggest grudge match of all-time will eclipse one million purchases and may even have a shot at the promotion’s reported record for buys with 1.6 million—which came on the stacked UFC 100 card in July 2009, which featured two of the company’s biggest draws in Brock Lesnar and Georges St-Pierre.
“If it’s not the No. 1 rivalry in the history of the UFC, it’s right up there,” White said. “I’ve never been in a situation where the guy says, ‘This guy is such a disrespectful punk he doesn’t deserve this shot and I’m not going to fight him.’ It’s never happened.
“My philosophy is always, ‘If you don’t like him, handle it in there.’ But you can’t say the guy doesn’t deserve it because you think he’s mean. Chael definitely deserves the rematch. He’s the only guy who’s ever come close to beating Anderson in the UFC.”
Sonnen says there’s no doubt this rematch—which is also expected to bring in a live gate of nearly $6.5 million, breaking the company’s record of $5.4 million at UFC 66 in December 2006—will be the biggest fight ever.
“People call this one of the biggest fights of the year,” Sonnen says. “You better check your numbers, guys. This is the biggest fight of all time. You can bring up UFC 100, but you better say it was the biggest card of all time. They had a tremendous card. I was a huge fan. I loved it. But this is the biggest fight to ever go down.
“There’s three things and only three things that can make a great fight. If you don’t have one of these three, you’re not going to have a great fight, historically: ethnicity, personal or nationality. We’ve got all three. All the ingredients are there. This is the fight.”
Mostly because of the two-year buildup by Sonnen, who degraded not only Silva and his native countrymen of Brazil, but also made ill-received remarks about how he wanted Silva’s wife to cook his victory steak on Saturday night.
Last week the soft-spoken 37-year-old Silva exploded on a conference call, saying: “I’m going to beat his ass like he’s never been beaten before. I’m going to make sure that every one of his teeth are broken, his arms are broken, (and) his legs are broke. He’s not going to be able to walk out of the octagon by himself.”
While the outburst shocked White, his threats provided priceless promotion for an event that gained even more exposure with today’s accompanying UFC Fan Expo at Mandalay Bay and the first-ever International Fight Week—an annual partnership between the UFC and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority that offers parties, fighter meet-and-greets, and other promotional endeavors.
“I didn’t see it coming,” White said. “I didn’t expect that either. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t dancing in my office a little when he was talking on the conference call, but I didn’t see that one coming.”
Silva’s anger carried over into the prefight press conference on Tuesday at Lagasse’s Stadium inside the Palazzo when Silva tried to walk through Sonnen afterwards as they squared off for publicity photos.
“Playtime is over. He can say whatever he wants. I said it last week, and I’ll say it again. It’s over. Saturday a lot of things are going to change. It’s going to be much different after Saturday,” Silva said through an interpreter.
“I have no words to really explain it other than the game is over and you will see on Saturday night what I’m talking about. All I can say is, ‘He’s screwed.’”
But true to his persona more befitting a WWE wrestler than martial artist, Sonnen laughed off Silva’s remarks and offered up a retaliation rap.
“I offer absolutely zero apologies. People who are scared to go too far never go far enough in life. I don’t care,” he said. “I’m like Jon Jones. I sound like Sean Combs, and I’ve got trombone-size stones like John Holmes.”
Sonnen, who landed 320 strikes to Silva’s 64 in their first match, wasted no time in predicting he would once again defeat Silva on Saturday—sarcastically overlooking the fact that he actually lost the first fight.
“It’s going to be a hard fight,” Sonnen said. “I’ll tell you right now I’m going out there and wait for him to throw a kick like he always does, and I’m going to put my forehead into his chest and drive him back into the cage and onto his prissy ass and run this (fist) into his head for 25 minutes or until he gives up. That’s my prediction.”