Anderson Silva speaks spotty English, and his Portuguese hasn’t been much better while he’s supposed to be promoting his record seventh defense of his middleweight title against Chael Sonnen at UFC 117.
The Brazilian mixed martial arts star’s aloof silence is just one of many things annoying Sonnen these days, but the rough-and-tumble wrestler from Oregon has done enough talking for both fighters in a bravura performance of promotion.
“He thinks he’s taking the high road,” Sonnen said. “He is so clueless, it’s not even funny. The guy is a dummy.”
Sonnen doesn’t like Silva’s fighting style or his wardrobe. He says Silva has “no fans and one sponsor” after four years as a UFC champion. He thinks Silva has chosen easy fights to defend his title, avoiding top wrestlers.
And though Sonnen is a heavy underdog at Oakland’s Oracle Arena, he thinks the UFC will be much better off if he manages an upset victory Saturday night.
“I just don’t like him,” Sonnen said. “I don’t have to have a reason. Not everybody can like everybody. I’m going to go out there and take his belt on the 7th, and Dana is going to fire him on the 8th.”
Silva’s last title defense was a disastrous victory: Although he comfortably beat Demian Maia at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi, Silva danced and taunted for much of the fight, refusing to engage Maia.
White was embarrassed by the champion he has staunchly backed in the past, berating him publicly and apologizing to fans and UFC investors who turned out for the league’s first Middle East event.
After threatening to move Silva to an undercard bout — or cut him entirely if Silva repeats such a performance — White put the star at center stage for the UFC’s first event in the Bay Area, the longtime home of San Jose-based Strikeforce, currently the closest thing to a rival for the industry leaders.
“Anderson has had a rough couple of fights,” White said. “I’m sure he’s focused and wants to get back in here and do what he does best and what I think he’s capable of, and I’m sure he really wants to fight Chael Sonnen, because a lot of things have been said.”
When Silva is motivated and active, his incredible performances have earned White’s highest praise — and Sonnen’s relentless taunting just might have piqued Silva’s interest. After Sonnen criticized Silva’s penchant for wearing pink shirts, Silva showed up at Thursday’s news conference in Oakland wearing a pink sweater.
“To talk about me is easy. Try beating me,” Silva said through a translator. “I’m used to fighting idiots like him that are talking about me. I’ve fought people all over the world, and some have respected me, and some haven’t. ... Even a parrot can talk.”
The card also includes former title contender Thiago Alves’ return from a 14-month absence against Jon Fitch, and veteran Matt Hughes taking on Ricardo Almeida. All five bouts on the main card feature Brazilian fighters against Americans, although White said it’s just a quirk of scheduling.
While Silva (26-4) has been the UFC’s middleweight champion since October 2006 in a record-breaking run, Sonnen (26-10-1) has bounced through numerous promotions before winning his last three fights, including an upset victory over Nate Marquardt in February to earn this title shot.
“I’m not in here to get the silver medal or say I one-time fought in the main event,” Sonnen said. “I’m here to win the world championship. Getting to beat up Anderson is just a bonus. I’m sore, tired, under the weather, over-trained and under-motivated, and still tough enough to beat this guy.”
Silva’s accomplishments and athleticism suggest it’ll be a whole lot tougher than Sonnen claims. Silva has won 12 straight fights, including a UFC-record 11 since joining the league in June 2006 with a spectacular first-minute knockout of Chris Leben.
The bout pits Silva’s exceptional striking skills against Sonnen’s wrestling prowess, although Sonnen claims he plans to slug his way into UFC history, landing the second stunning upset in a title bout by producing the second stunning title-bout result in four months, following Frankie Edgar’s win over BJ Penn in Abu Dhabi.
“This is a fist fight to me,” Sonnen said. “You can talk all about mixed martial arts and bowing, all that ... but I’m going to get in a fist fight on Saturday night in Oakland, California. I’m going to take his belt, and I’m going to hurt him real bad.”