If you’ve seen any promo or caught any of the buzz about The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3 in the last few months, inevitably you’ve heard about the infamous fight that took place on the show between coaches Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva.
Well, the time is here for that episode to air this Sunday on UFC Fight Pass when Sonnen and Silva actually throw down in the Ultimate Fighter gym, marking the first time in more than 20 seasons of the show where the coaches end up throwing fists while the show is filming.
UFC president Dana White wasn’t shy when speaking about the incident a few months ago, but now to see it all unfold, the circumstances surrounding the fight seem almost too bizarre to describe. Even Sonnen, who was involved in the melee, isn’t sure why Silva picked that particular time to flip out and get in his face, which ultimately led to punches being thrown.
"I just came from lunch and I’m standing there like any other day. He was giving me the silent treatment, that was something that didn’t come through on the show. He hadn’t talked to me in 10 days. He was single handedly ruining that aspect of the show, there was no interaction between he and I. I walk in there and I can just feel he’s staring at me, like I can just feel it and for whatever reason the show never starts. I turn my head and sure enough he is staring at me, and he’s got the crazy look," Sonnen told FOX Sports on Friday. "He’s doing the whole process that would scare all the Japanese guys with mullets back in the day. That’s not going to work with me.
"I’m looking at him and he just starts in on his rant. The rant’s okay, I’m glad that he’s talking, at least it’s an element here, it’s at least something from an entertainment aspect, something’s happening."
HE’S A BULLY AND ONE THING A BULLY WILL DO IS IF HE KNOWS YOU DON’T WANT TO FIGHT, HE’LL STAY ON YOU FOR A FIGHT. BECAUSE I WAS TRYING TO GET OUT OF THE FIGHT, THE BULLY OF COURSE HAD TO FEED INTO THAT AND HE FINALLY GOT TOO CLOSE AND I HAD TO PUSH HIM BACK
— Chael Sonnen
Admittedly, Sonnen says he missed about half of what Silva was saying because he couldn’t understand the Brazilian’s speech, but the body language was telling the whole story. Silva was trying to intimidate him right then and there, and Sonnen wasn’t having any of it.
While Sonnen is more than happy to participate in a battle of wits with an opponent, he knew deep down in that moment that Silva was either gunning for a fight or trying to see if the Oregon native would crack under his ranting and raving tirade.
"He’s very difficult to understand, he kind of makes sure I can’t understand, that’s kind of always been his way with me even when he was doing his own videos. He would mutter something and then go subtitle it and put it out on the internet," Sonnen said.
"I’m doing the best that I can, but the problem is he’s legitimately mad. I can see it in his face, I can see it in his body language, whether he’s got a right to be or he worked himself into it, but I can tell I’m now not dealing with a rational person and that’s not great. Pretty soon it just escalates and he gets too close and I even plead with him. I said please stop, and he won’t. He’s a bully and one thing a bully will do is if he knows you don’t want to fight, he’ll stay on you for a fight. Because I was trying to get out of the fight, the bully of course had to feed into that and he finally got too close and I had to push him back."
From the moment that Silva gets too close and Sonnen pushes him away, things go completely haywire. The video from last week’s episode already give an accurate portrayal of how things break down and fall apart in a matter of seconds, but there’s even more to see once the fight actually happens.
Another teaser that’s already been out there since filming of the show started was a coach on Wanderlei Silva’s team that allegedly sucker punched Sonnen during the fight, which prompted an angry and vitriolic response from Dana White about how sick he was seeing this entire thing unfold, not to mention the actions of one of the other coaches on the team.
Now it’s not completely uncommon for a promoter like White to oversell the severity of a situation for the sake of interest, but in this case he may have actually understated what went down when Andre Dida, an ex-PRIDE fighter and assistant coach on Silva’s team, jumped into the melee and took his chance to sock Sonnen with a series of punches while the former middleweight title contender was busy dealing with Silva.
What may strike viewers as even more disturbing is the subsequent celebration from Silva, Dida and the rest of their staff following Sonnen getting attacked and bloodied from the incident.
"Wanderlei Silva’s the worst fighter in the UFC, but he’s still a fighter in the UFC and when I’m fighting him, I’m a little bit busy. I have my hands full, and for somebody else to come in, and this isn’t just a guy, this is a professional fighter. This is a K-1 striker and he’s hitting me in the back of the head, which is completely illegal by MMA standards, and he’s doing it without a glove. I haven’t been punched by a grown man without a glove on since the 90’s. He’s just teeing off as best as he can, and again this is illegal, I could have had him arrested, there’s a number of things that could happen and I don’t do it. Things happened, fine, the swelling in my head will go down, we’re good," Sonnen explained.
"It was the celebration afterwards and I’ll quote him — he bragged to Wanderlei ‘his head was really hurt’ and I’m going yeah, that’s what happens when a guy hits you in the back of it repeatedly, it hurts. That’s a really weird thing to celebrate. You should feel like a coward, you should feel terrible that it happened.
It was the celebration afterwards and I’ll quote him — he bragged to Wanderlei ‘his head was really hurt’. You should feel like a coward, you should feel terrible that it happened. It was illegal, it was a crime, there’s no two ways about it
— Chael Sonnen
"If one of my coaches did that, he would no longer be coaching. Right there, that second, you out and it’s not going to be thanks for the support, no out. That was a weird thing that he didn’t handle it, he didn’t have a problem with it. In fact, they celebrated it and they were glad to jump somebody. It was illegal, it was a crime, there’s no two ways about it, it was an absolute crime that they were proud of."
To this day, Sonnen still has no actual idea why Silva was so agitated to start the day or why he chose this moment ahead of a fight weigh-in to attack, but he believes it stemmed from an incident the day before when the bout selection was being made. According to Sonnen, the fight selection was dependent on Silva showing up and make the pick, but after waiting around for nearly four hours, no one was sure he was even going to make an appearance.
Once Silva arrived on set, Sonnen says he was barely awake and smelled like he had been out partying the night before.
"When he finally rolls in about 2 o’clock, it was clear that he just woke up and he stunk, he smelled like alcohol. And this made him so mad that it was wrong that I outed him. It’s like Wanderlei, I can’t cover you, you stink like a brewery and you’re four hours late. That’s what pissed him off, he felt it didn’t need to be part of the show and that I broke a deal in man code by saying that," Sonnen said.
Once fans watch the entire episode unfold this Sunday night, a few things might happen in the aftermath of the battle between Sonnen and Silva. First of all, there’s no getting around the coach who sucker punched Sonnen while he was actually fighting Silva, and that will be made overwhelmingly clear during the episode.
But the other outcome is how Silva is perceived after the incident airs.
For most of his career, Silva has been a beloved figure in the sport due to his intense in ring performances and stellar knockout history. Just like other past seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, however, behavior warrants reaction and judging by Silva’s demeanor and reaction in this latest episode, the tables might get turned on him.
Sonnen likes to proclaim himself as the bad guy, but following Silva’s antics on The Ultimate Fighter Brazil, he might have to put an ‘S’ on his chest and join the ranks of heroes in the UFC.
"I had talked to Wanderlei about that. Wanderlei had quit the show, he quit the show on the very first day, walked out on his guys, walked out on me, the whole process. He quit. I’m pleading with him to get him back and I’ve got to level with him. I go Wanderlei, I can do this show without you, but it’s not going to be near as good. Wanderlei, I don’t like you, but a lot of people do and a lot of people are huge Wanderlei fans, these guys want to learn from you, they look up to you. You’ve got to understand I’m the bad guy. I said all these things about Brazil, I got all these people worked up, you’re the good guy. You come in to save the day and put the villain in his place. That’s the story line here," Sonnen stated. "It’s already established and it’s great. When you come in and behave like this, you compel me to the audience. I don’t want to be liked, I want you to be liked, and I want big ratings. I’ve got to level with him just like this so what I think he already knew, I now have to explain to him. It’s like Wanderlei, please don’t behave like this.
"If you keep going on with this gang mentality, you keep showing up drunk, you keep trying to fight me on a daily basis, all that’s going to do is reverse our roles and I don’t want to be liked. I’m okay with the role I’ve got, and it was very tough."
There’s still plenty more of TUF Brazil 3 to go this season, and Sonnen also knows he has to be attached to Silva’s name for at least a few more months considering their fight was recently pushed back to the co-main event for UFC 175 in July. Originally the two coaches were set to fight at the end of May in Brazil, but now the bout has been pushed back six weeks without a word from Silva about the shift in events or about the episode that’s about to air this weekend.
Sonnen still believes the fight will happen with Silva in July, but he would feel a lot better if his opponent would actually acknowledge it at some point.
"Based on the terms that you’ve given me of yes or no, I would say yes (we will fight)," Sonnen said. "I believe he will, but I’d feel a lot better if you were to ask him. He’s refusing to do interviews right now and I personally believe it’s because he doesn’t want to get asked that exact question. I think that’s the reason he’s buried his head in the sand."