Chael Sonnen is talking tough going into UFC 117 against champion Anderson Silva
Anderson Silva’s latest mixed martial arts challenger at least talks a good game.
Oregon’s Chael Sonnen is 26-10-1, but the 33-year-old represents the best of a middleweight division that Brazil’s Silva (26-4) long ago cleaned out during a title reign that dates to 2006. They’re scheduled to fight in the main event of Saturday night’s pay-per-view UFC 117 at Oakland’s Oracle Arena.
“I’m the toughest guy in the company,” Sonnen said during a recent conference call. “No guy in earrings can out-tough me.”
Sonnen has gone as far as predicting he’ll get Silva fired by the UFC, after the Brazilian was blasted by UFC President Dana White for a strange, playful if not unprofessional, performance in defeating and embarrassing Demian Maia in an April decision in Abu Dhabi.
As Silva let Sonnen ramble on during the conference call, restricting his own early answers to “yes” and “no,” Sonnen ripped on: “I give a coherent answer. … He sits in a car on a speakerphone and says ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ … I just don’t like him. He and I aren’t going to be friends. I don’t think he has any fans. Nobody sponsors him or wants to act or be like him.
“There’ll be a tremendous difference in this fight, when he takes on an All-American from Oregon.”
Silva said he interpreted Sonnen’s attack as “funny,” and his interpreter, Ed Soares, explained: “These are just words. They’ll take care of what they have to take care of [Saturday]. If [Silva] felt a reason to engage, he’d engage.”
Sonnen declined to admit he was engaging in the old art of fight-selling with his colorful words.
The credibility of Sonnen’s public statements came under additional scrutiny this week when a recording was released of Sonnen telling an MMA interviewer that Lance Armstrong had given himself cancer by doping. Even after listening to the tape, Sonnen later denied having said that.
“I don’t know what hype means,” Sonnen said. "…That’s the fight business. If two guys are going to fight, let’s give people a reason to watch it.”
UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta conceded that “some of the stuff Chael says is off the wall, but I truly believe he believes what he’s saying. He said he’d dominate Nate Marquardt in his last fight. I didn’t think he could do it. He went out there and backed it up.”
The question is whether Sonnen’s wrestling can result in a takedown of the hard-hitting Silva, and whether he can keep the champion down.
A gifted striker and jiu jitsu technician, Silva will certainly engage as he seeks a 12th consecutive UFC victory. His dominance has boxed UFC into a corner of backing up its own words: that it will make the fights its fans want most.
After welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre fights in December, the call for a clash of champions between Silva and St-Pierre will be intense.
“We’re in the business of making those fights that the fans want, and if they want it, then we’ll sit those guys down and find a way to put that fight on for our fans,” Fertitta said.
Saturday’s card will also include a welterweight bout between title contenders Jon Fitch and Thiago Alves, and a heavyweight fight pitting “The Ultimate Fighter” winner Roy Nelson and Junior Dos Santos.