It started much earlier.
Sonnen told ESPN.com this week the reason for his hostility toward Silva, and surprisingly, another high-profile Brazilian fighter.
“Anderson Silva and Wanderlei Silva, who have had me p---ed off for years, have gone around and tried to bully people,” Sonnen said. “That stuff doesn’t work with me.
“The buck stops here.”
Sonnen faces Silva in a 185-pound title rematch July 7 at UFC 148 in Las Vegas. In their first meeting, Sonnen dominated the action for four-plus rounds before getting caught in a triangle armbar at 3:10 of the fifth and tapping out.
Losing that title opportunity would seem to be more than enough reason to increase Sonnen’s dislike for Silva. But it was Silva’s action leading into his next title defense that took Sonnen’s anger to greater heights. Silva directed verbal insults at onetime training partner Vitor Belfort in the weeks before their Feb. 5, 2011, bout.
The biggest insult, however, occurred during their weigh-in, when Silva donned a white mask in an attempt to intimidate Belfort. Silva removed the mask during the fighter staredown.
“He wears a mask,” Belfort said at the time. “He’s a good man, but in the fight he tries to impress people and make fighters afraid of him.”
Silva would successfully defend his belt at UFC 126 with a first-round knockout of Belfort. He used a front kick on the chin to drop Belfort then finished the fight with several punches.
“I’m not Vitor Belfort,” Sonnen said. “You’re not going to stick a mask on and talk down to me and have me wilt.”