First, Sonnen issued a gauntlet ultimatum to Silva for Super Bowl weekend, placing haywire stakes on a possible rematch. You remember: if he wins, Silva leaves the middleweight division, but in the unlikely event he should lose, Sonnen would remove himself (voluntarily) from the UFC forever. He said this after walking through Brian Stann at UFC 136. Silva smiled. The whole thing was dramatic, if a little ornery. To make matters worse, Ed Soares was caught joshing around with Sonnen in a photograph taken in a hotel atrium.
Silva wasn’t amused.
That all happened six weeks ago. Since then the ultimatum has expired, or gone away, or been modified, or become fiction -- with Sonnen you never really know (and it’s OK, because neither does he). As for Silva? He has rankled in private for the most part while recovering from a shoulder injury.
But after further ribbing and pregnant silences, Silva has finally come around to the idea of the rematch Dana White says is happening one way or another. Only this time, Silva is laying down his own conditions -- by inviting Sonnen to come fight him down in his native Brazil.
“I don’t like [Chael Sonnen]. This guy [wants to] fight me? Go to Brazil,” Silva told MMA Nation. “No problem. Chael talks too much. I’m ready to fight Chael. But you have the chance -- go to Brazil to fight me.”
Obviously it’s not up to him, nor Sonnen, but the UFC -- so we’re dealing in suggestions. Ideas. Compromises. Yet with the UFC’s full-court press infiltration into Brazil, this should seem as valid as any scenario. It’s an interesting counter by Silva, for a fight he has -- seemingly at least -- been reluctant to take. It looks and feels like leverage.
And the idea of an antihero like Sonnen going down to Brazil to fight one of its biggest stars is captivating stuff whichever side of the Equator you fall on. That’s just if you contemplate the rivalry as it stands, going back to the first bout and the improbable way things went down, with all the asterisks that piled around it. There’s so much more that goes into the idea.
Imagine this setting for a minute -- if we thought Matt Serra having to rematch Georges St. Pierre in Montreal had a Rocky IV feel to it, Silva-Sonnen 2 in Brazil would seem downright sacrificial. Sonnen has never been overly flattering toward Brazil or its fighters (Google it), and he is a detested figure there because of it. To have him fight in Brazil would be pandemonium, chaos and vastly intriguing. It would do enormous, unparalleled business. It could sell out a venue larger than Toronto’s Rogers Centre, and it would become a fever to see Sonnen take his comeuppance. It would be a fantastic safety hazard, too, in which the UFC would have to take extreme security measures. That’s real. Sonnen would be vulnerable in ways never before seen in the UFC. That’s the potential deal-breaker.
But how compelling. Sonnen would be dropped into man’s land, and he’d have to fight his way out. There are those who thrive in a “man against the world” setting. Sonnen might be one of them. He’d have to be. After all, he ducks no man. He is a fighter, not a mixed martial artist. He goes out there and fights for public entertainment, for those thirsty for beer and blood. He tells us this stuff all the time. It’s black and white. To the point that, if you take Sonnen at his word, he has very few objections available to him.
Knowing this, Silva was smart to throw it out there.
Would the UFC do it? That remains to be seen. They'd have to contemplate Sonnen's position. There would be a lot of discussion as to how it would work. Precautions would have to be taken, scenarios walked through, the most complicated of which goes like this -- imagine if he won.