File Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Chael Sonnen expects his one-man crusade against middleweight champion Anderson Silva to reach its crescendo at UFC 117 on Aug. 7 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. Until then, count on him keeping up the rhetoric.
During a Q&A session Friday at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif., Sonnen rekindled his criticism of Silva, whose unanimous decision victory over Demian Maia at UFC 112 earlier this month had UFC President Dana White fuming and detractors coming out of the woodwork. Still widely regarded as the world’s top pound-for-pound fighter, Silva danced and clowned his way to his 12th consecutive victory at the Ferrari World Concert Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Count Sonnen among those who were not impressed.
“Anderson Silva’s a liar,” Sonnen said. “He said he would fight in Abu Dhabi, and he didn’t fight. I did my level best to watch it. I couldn’t stomach it. I’m not on the bandwagon to completely kick Anderson to the curb for that, because I don’t know why he does it. If he did it to be a jerk, then he’s a jerk. If he did it as a setup, I give him a pass.”
Sonnen vowed to push Silva when the two meet this summer.
“I have an obligation to make him fight,” he said. “When I got a call from Dana that said, ‘Will you fight this guy?’ I said, ‘You bet I’ll fight him. I don’t know who will win.’ And I don’t know who will win. I’m not a bully. If I knew I could beat this guy, I wouldn’t show up. I don’t know that I can beat him, but I can guarantee you there will be a fight.”
Sonnen, one of the last men standing in the UFC’s middleweight division, parlayed wins over one-time International Fight League champion Dan Miller, former middleweight King of Pancrase Nate Marquardt and the world-ranked Yushin Okami into a crack at the belt. At 33, he has blossomed into one of the sport’s elite competitors at 185 pounds.
“I’ve put a whole lifetime into getting this one night, this one opportunity,” Sonnen said. “There’s a saying that Matt Hughes started that you’re never the champion unless you defend that belt. That’s a bunch of crap. You leave that ring with 12 pounds of gold around your waist, you are the world champion. I would trade everything I’ve got and start over from scratch tomorrow for one night to walk out of that ring with that belt.”
In Silva, he faces the mother of all uphill climbs. A multi-faceted performer and perhaps the game’s most accomplished striker, the Brazilian has not suffered a legitimate defeat in more than five years. His 11 consecutive victories inside the Octagon stand as an all-time record.
“He’s a fantastic fighter,” Sonnen said. “I’m not delusional to his skill set. I don’t care if he’s better. He can be better, but I’m tougher, and in 25 minutes, we’re going to find out who’s toughest. One of us is going to stick around and grind it out for 25, and I propose it’s me. As far as his weaknesses, I don’t know what they are. I know what my strengths are, and that’s what I bring to the table.”
Most point to Silva’s wrestling as the most glaring hole in his game. Marquardt, Dan Henderson and Travis Lutter all took down the 35-year-old inside the Octagon. All three came up short in their bids to unseat him. Based at the wrestling-rich Team Quest, Sonnen was United States Olympic Team alternate and All-American at the University of Oregon.
“I’m going to get into range,” Sonnen said. “I accept I’m going to get hit, and I accept that it’s going to hurt. I will go to the hospital that night, but in those 25 minutes, I will be in range the whole time. If he wants to throw one of those fists at me, he can go right ahead. I’m going to walk right through them. I’m going to grab his legs. I’m going to push him into that fence. I’m going to pick him up, and I’m going to put him on his prissy little ass. You can guarantee that.
“I am giving Anderson Silva the fair chance to back out and back out now,” he added, “but as sure as night follows day, if he does not heed my warning, I will declare war, and, on Aug. 7, his 15 minutes of fame will come to an abrupt halt.”