There was a shove, perhaps a grab, and plenty of jawing.
It all was rather tame, and entirely expected at the first meeting of Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen ahead of their main event at Bellator NYC.
The shove, from Silva to Sonnen, came as Bellator president Scott Coker squared the fighters off for photos at the end of Thursday’s news conference promoting the event, which airs on pay-per-view Saturday from Madison Square Garden.
The pair’s longstanding rivalry is back in the spotlight, but the men had yet to be in each other’s presence while promoting the fight after Silva did not appear in person for two previous news conferences.
“I didn’t know if Wanderlei was going to show up, I really didn’t,” Sonnen said. “As soon as I got out of the cab at the hotel, I thought I saw him, I saw some guy in the crosswalk with a bald head looking disheveled and lost.”
The animosity dates to their UFC days when the two coached against each other on “The Ultimate Fighter,” leading to an on-show brawl in 2013. They were scheduled to fight three separate times but never did because of a series of failed drug tests and subsequent suspensions of both fighters.
Silva had mentioned in past interviews that things might get physical again if they ran into each other before the fight, but nothing had boiled over just yet.
“I’m happy because I look at him scared out there,” Silva said. “But no, I’m going to be waiting for the fight.”
Sonnen had been keeping his distance as well.
“I hadn’t seen Wanderlei until just now and I don’t know if I’ve even made eye contact with him,” Sonnen said.
Neither fighter has planned too much out ahead of the bout, aside from getting a satisfying victory.
“I don’t have the gameplan, my gameplan is just kick his [expletive], and it’s done,” Silva said.
Sonnen said he’ll be able to use his disdain for Silva to his advantage.
“People say this shouldn’t be personal, but it is personal,” Sonnen said. “I can’t think of anything more personal than having to fight a guy.”
Silva, the former Pride champion, hasn’t fought since March 2013 thanks to a lengthy suspension, but he believes he’s used the time off well.
“After I signed with Bellator, I feel happy again,” Silva said. “I cleaned my mind and cleaned my body. Sometimes we train so much we don’t want to do it anymore, but right now I’m ready to be back and ready to be back at the top.”