Chael Sonnen knows he’s in a top-contender scrap.
He’s been told that if he successfully disposes of last-minute replacement Michael “The Count” Bisping, he will get another shot at middleweight champ Anderson “Spider” Silva — this time in a soccer stadium in Brazil.
“Do I believe it? Not in the least,” says Sonnen, who lost a title fight against Silva in a fifth-round submission after bullying and beating the Brazilian for four rounds at UFC 117.
“I think they’re sincere. I think they mean it. But I can tell you behind the scenes they tried to put me and Anderson together four times.
“What I know as a fact is that he turned me down four out of four times and he even said no to (UFC owner) Lorenzo Fertitta’s face. Face to face. Lorenzo told him this is the fight we want and Anderson said no.”
Sonnen — who was originally set to take on Mark Munoz at the UFC on FOX 2 event Jan. 28 until Munoz was forced to withdraw due to an elbow injury — says he thinks Silva may have fought his last fight.
“I don’t know if he’s going to retire or if they’re going to retire him,” says the 26-11-1 wrestler.
“I called him out publicly. You call out a Brazilian publicly, you’re going to be fighting that Brazilian. That’s in their culture.
“And he sat there and covered his mouth ... a smart move. It saved him a trip to the hospital. I don’t believe he’s going to fight me. I don’t believe he’s going to fight Bisping. I don’t believe he’s going to fight again.
“That’s my personal opinion.”
Silva — currently sidelined with shoulder and back injuries — has denied numerous times he’s ducking Sonnen.
The Oregon native — whose rants against Silva have become staples in his verbiage — had nothing but nice things to say about his new opponent.
“He’s beat up everybody they put in front of him,” Sonnen said of the 22-3 Brit.
“The complaint is that he hasn’t beaten Top 10 guys. Well, that’s not up to him. He fights anybody they ever ask him to fight. I don’t know how you can deny a guy who continually goes out and wins. I’m not delusional. He gets the job done. He should get this opportunity.”
For his part, the normally lippy Bisping was equally respectful.
He said some are questioning his decision to ditch the Demian Maia fight to take on Sonnen.
“Some people are saying, ‘You shouldn’t have taken the fight,’ ” says Bisping.
“You should have stuck with the original gameplan. Well, if I lose, I don’t deserve a title fight.”