|UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva (above) won't defend his title against Chael Sonnen in his native Brazil, after all. The fight have been moved to Las Vegas. (REUTERS)
What was supposed to be one of the greatest spectacles in MMA history, will now look just like any other UFC pay-per-view.
Anderson Silva was expected to defend his middleweight championship against Chael Sonnen at UFC 147 June 23. The bout was to be held in front of 80,000 partisan fans at a soccer stadium in Silva’s home country of Brazil. Rio de Janeiro’s Joao Havelange Stadium was rumoured to be the host venue.
However, news broke last week that the event was in jeopardy due to the United Nation’s Rio +20 meeting scheduled for June 20-22. The conference resulted in political pressure from local government officials not to stage the event — as well as a lack of hotel rooms for fans.
At a press conference in Rio Tuesday, White confirmed Sonnen will now challenge Silva at UFC 148 in Las Vegas, July 7. The card will also feature a bantamweight championship co-main event between Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber.
“Think about how big Manny Pacquiao is in the Philippines,” White said, comparing the boxer to Silva. “Do you ever seen Manny fight in the Philippines? No, he fights in Las Vegas. It’s the fight capital of the world.
“The thing that makes Las Vegas so great is no matter how many people come in for an event, there are enough hotel rooms for everybody. There are things to do. There’s gambling, there’s food, there’s clubs — everything you could want to do for a weekend.”
It goes without saying Silva was disappointed when he found out he wouldn’t be fighting in Brazil. Surprisingly, Sonnen was equally dejected.
“It was disappointing — especially the part about coming to a stadium,” Sonnen said during a press conference to promote his fight with Silva. “In Toronto, (Jake) Shields and GSP did 55,000 seats and I was hoping to be a part of breaking that.”
Though the atmosphere will be nowhere near as intense, it doesn’t take away from the epic nature of the fight itself.
Silva defended his middleweight title against Sonnen at UFC 117 in Oakland less than two years ago. The build-up consisted of Sonnen unloading a now legendary torrent of trash talk. Fans and critics alike felt he had talked himself into a corner and that karma would bite him in the ass.
To the shock of many, Sonnen dominated Silva for four rounds before getting caught in a triangle armbar with only two minutes left of the clock.
Silva in a rematch with the man who pushed him to the limit 20 months ago is arguably the biggest fight in UFC history.
But the champion disagrees.
“Chael Sonnen doesn’t practice martial arts — he’s a wrestler,” Silva said through an interpreter. “So he doesn’t know what martial arts is. Respect, respect for a country, respect towards the people and respect towards human beings. Many times people ask me, ‘But isn’t he promoting the fight?’ Yeah, OK, but there are many different ways for you to do that. He disrespected my country, he disrespected my family and above all he disrespected the UFC audience.
“I think the best fight, and the fight of the century, would be myself against my clone. That’s something that will never happen.”
At this point, Sonnen interjected by snoring loudly into his microphone.
“He had 25 minutes to beat me and came closer than anyone, but he didn’t win,” Silva continued, unfazed. “So I will continue to do my job. I’m going to practise really hard and bring this victory back to Brazil.”
That opened the door for more legendary Sonnen patter.
“This guy says the craziest stuff, man,” Sonnen responded. “It’s unbelievable he actually thinks like that. He talks about his legacy — he’s so close to the trees, he can’t see the forest. Come to America and ask what they think about him. This guy’s the real deal. Wow, he became the No. 1 contender when he beat up the great Chris Leben. He then defended his belt against the great Patrick Cote and the amazing Thales Leites. What a star this guy is.
“What about the fact that I called him out for six years? ‘Oh, you disrespected my family.’ Yes I did. What are you going to do about it? You didn’t do a damn thing and you aren’t going to do anything on July 7.
“Get your excuses ready now, Anderson. I told everyone before the first time I fought him that our skills are not even close. I am going to destroy him.”