Opinion: The Inevitable Fight between Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen
By Jesse Heitz
The rumor mill is working overtime again this week. No, I don’t mean the perpetual torrent of chatter that stems from the multitude of MMA fans on the sport’s many forums. In this case, which has been brewing for several years now, the rumors and hype stem from two men—and two men alone, Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen.
In a recent interview with MMAFighting.com, Chael Sonnen took aim at a potential foe in Silva, stating,
“He’s a distraction. He’s a distraction, no doubt about it.”
“My wife is calling me and my mom is calling me. They’re asking me about this because it’d made the internet. I just said, ‘Listen, there’s actually a video of this, but you’re never going to see it. Whatever reaction Wanderlei Silva and the Backstreet Boys thought they were going to get, they didn’t get it,’”
“It’s silly. In this sport, you cannot refuse to fight a guy and then come out and talk about that guy. It’s like, ‘Listen, Wanderlei. I’ve said a lot of things about a lot of people, but I’ll make that walk every goddamn time.’ I will never pull out of a fight. I will never call in sick, and I will never say no. That gives me the right to say the things that I say.
“I get it, he needs media. The UFC can’t give it to him because he’s not relevant. That’s not an insult, that’s just the reality. He’s just not relevant. He doesn’t have a fight coming up.”
In the interest of full disclosure I think it’s warranted that I outright admit that I’m a Wanderlei Silva fan, and that I don’t much care for Chael Sonnen. I would suppose that anyone who has read any of the pieces that I’ve written for Full Contact Fighter knows this quite well already. However, I don’t necessarily think that I’m incapable of being objective in a conversation that involves these two fighters.
For the record, I’m no fan of Wanderlei’s conduct at the Mr. Olympia Expo. I’m not even all that fond of his numerous video messages taunting Sonnen. I chuckled at the first, but it’s well over-the-top now. I prefer the Wanderlei of old. Quiet outside of the ring or cage, but exceptionally violent inside of it. I get the business aspect of it, both of them trying to land a lucrative payday, but please this isn’t professional wrestling so we don’t need “Stone Cold” Steve Austin-styled promos.
Yet, for Sonnen to claim that Silva is a distraction is a little curious, particularly given that Sonnen really only rose to prominence through his use of guerrilla self-marketing. In other words, becoming an incredible distraction. After all, it was he that routinely called out Silva. Reports indicate that Silva is unable to compete until after January due to injury, and that he was unwilling to fight for a sum less than Sonnen. Neither seem too unreasonable to me.
Now, to tackle the issue of relevance, of which Sonnen claims Silva has none. That’s a little ridiculous. Certainly he isn’t a top-ranked contender, but given that Sonnen has felt the need to bait him for years, and continues to throw gasoline onto the fire, seems to clearly contradict Sonnen’s words.