Sonnen dares Silva to win or go home
HOUSTON – It is difficult to say which was more stunning at UFC 136: The way middleweight Chael Sonnen so easily handled Brian Stann before submitting him in the second round Saturday at the Toyota Center, or Sonnen’s offer to middleweight champion Anderson Silva to have a “loser leaves town match” early next year.
The colorful Sonnen was at his trash-talking best after destroying Stann, submitting him with an arm triangle at 3:51 of the second round. Sonnen, fighting for the first time since being submitted by Silva in the waning seconds of a title fight 14 months ago at UFC 117, repeatedly took Stann down and pounded on him on the ground.
But the real fireworks began in the cage after the fight and continued in the post-fight news conference, where Sonnen tore Silva apart verbally.
After Stann submitted, Sonnen eyed Silva, who was sitting Octagonside. He grabbed the microphone from interviewer Joe Rogan and, speaking directly to Silva, said, “I beat you, you leave the division. You beat me, I leave the UFC forever.”
Silva arched his eyebrows as the crowd went wild.
At the post-fight news conference, Sonnen had the room in stitches as he bashed Silva repeatedly.
UFC president Dana White got in on the act, too. Asked if he’d put Silva-Sonnen II in the champion’s native Brazil, White demurred.
“I want to get Chael out of there alive,” White said, referring to the ongoing trashing of Brazil and its people Sonnen has been doing.
White said he wasn’t certain he’d make the fight next, though he seemed to be leaning that way. He said he wanted to talk to Silva, and he admitted there is a possibility it could happen on the night before the Super Bowl in February in Las Vegas.
Sonnen said he was pleased with the victory, but said beating Stann isn’t what he wanted to be doing on Saturday. He clearly had his mind on the champion.
“I’m definitely happy and it’s a big relief and a process to go through,” Sonnen said. “But look: That’s not the match I was after. I got plenty of money. I got plenty of fame. I’m after 12 pounds of gold, and as far as I’m concerned, that belt is worth nothing more than a piece of tin when it’s around his waist. I am the true middleweight champion.”
That “piece of tin” is a belt Sonnen nearly won. At UFC 117, he was dominating Silva like no one had since Silva joined the UFC in 2006. He repeatedly took the champion down and pounded him on the ground.
Sonnen won the first four rounds by a wide margin and was winning the fifth and en route to one of the biggest upsets in UFC history when Silva slid his legs around Sonnen’s neck and forced a tap with a triangle choke.
For all his trash talk, Sonnen is a fierce competitor, a former Olympic wrestling alternate, and wants the rematch badly to prove his performance the first time was no fluke.
“It was spur of the moment,” he insisted of his decision in the cage to call out Silva. “I saw him sitting in the crowd. We’ve got unfinished business. They’re talking about somebody else coming in there. This is me and him. And, frankly, it’s me then him.
“In some parallel universe, you can hit a man 300 times and he wraps his legs around your head for eight seconds and they call him the winner. On the streets of West Linn, Oregon, those are not the rules. I am the middleweight champion. I defended my championship tonight for the first time and I am willing to give Anderson a shot at the true belt, the linear belt, the people’s belt, from the best damn middleweight there’s ever been.”
Silva didn’t attend the post-fight news conference, though he’s made no secret of his desire to face Sonnen again. White said he’ll have to consider the possibilities, though he conceded a rematch would be big.
Given Silva’s interest, it probably will occur.
“Some of the stuff he’s said has gotten Anderson pretty fired up and wanting to do this fight,” White said. “You go out there and debate whether if Dan Henderson beats [Mauricio] ‘Shogun’ [Rua at UFC 139 next month] or dah dah dah, but I think people and Anderson probably want this fight.”
Sonnen clearly wants it.
“As far as Anderson goes, we’re playing for keeps this time, because I’ve had it with this guy,” Sonnen said. “He’s probably had it with me, so let’s just figure this thing out once and for all. You heard what I said and my word is good, and I meant it. A deal is a deal and I didn’t see him stand up and accept the challenge.
“If the [shoe] had been on the other foot, I’d have come over that [shoe] and shoved that microphone up his [expletive], if he would have said that to me. You saw what he did. He sat there. And you know what? It was a good move.”