COMMENTARY | It was recently announced that the third season of "The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil" would feature Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva squaring off as coaches on the show before meeting in the octagon. This announcement comes just over one month after the UFC determined that Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn would serve as coaches for the next season of the American version of TUF prior to their third fight. Upon comparing the coaches for both versions of the show, it is easy to conclude that, for the first time, TUF: Brazil should provide much more compelling television than its American counterpart.
This is not a slight at Edgar and Penn. In fact, those two have accomplished much more in their collective UFC careers than Silva and Sonnen, and are likely to have a more technical and exciting fight than the TUF: Brazil coaches. Similarly, Edgar and Penn are likely better qualified to coach groups of young MMA prospects than Silva and Sonnen due to their more well-rounded games. All that being said, the thought of watching Edgar and Penn coach on the weekly reality show is much less exciting than what Silva and Sonnen are sure to provide.
For starters, the rivalry between Silva and Sonnen has been brewing for years, ever since Silva took extreme offense to Sonnen's disparaging remarks about Silva's native Brazil in the lead up to Sonnen's fights against Anderson Silva. The ridiculous remarks that created this anger involved claims such as Brazil not having the Internet until recently and the Nogueira brothers trying to feed carrots to a bus. Sonnen at times went even further by specifically mocking Wanderlei in similar fashion, saying things like he "abandoned" Brazil by moving to live in an allegedly lavish lifestyle in America.
Despite the fact that most (if not all) of Sonnen's offending words could rightfully be chalked up to his "persona" and not any kind of real feelings, Wanderlei has taken great offense to the remarks. As time has gone on, Wanderlei has only seemingly gotten angrier at Sonnen's antics, and has even gone as far as creating a series of videos verbally assaulting and threatening Sonnen.
As a result, the dynamic between Sonnen and Silva on TUF: Brazil should be electric. While many coaches in the history of the UFC's reality show have had some animosity, you likely have to go all the way back to the third season of the show with Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock to find a set of coaches who had as much potential to turn that dislike into a blowup at any time. Similar to Ortiz, it is almost a given that Sonnen will seek to provoke Wanderlei at every turn. And, like Shamrock, it is equally as probable that Silva will not be able to contain his anger when that happens.
Also, there is the added intrigue of seeing how Sonnen will be able to manage his team on the show. As it is likely that all of the contestants will be Brazilian, Sonnen may have a problem communicating directly to his team members. In addition, it stands to reason that contestants on both teams will not see too kindly to Sonnen's barbs at either their home country or one of their native legends. As a result, it is easy to envision a scenario where Sonnen loses the support of his team if things do not go well from the start. As the likely worst case scenario, it doesn't seem too far fetched to think there could be a full-fledged revolt if any of the team members take too many of Sonnen's past and likely future insults to heart. This is exactly the kind of intense dynamic that the reality series has been lacking in recent years.
In contrast, the fact of the matter remains that Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn will not be able to insert a similar dynamic into their tenure as coaches of the American TUF. While the two will provide great coaching and nostalgia for MMA die-hards, it is tough to see the pairing generating much casual interest. Therefore, it seems probable that the American version of the show will continue its struggle to captivate audiences and generate ratings, while the Brazilian counterpart will finally exceed it in providing can't-miss excitement.
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Del Pearson is a big MMA fan who has been to many live UFC events. His all-time favorite fighter is Randy Couture. Follow Del on Twitter @DelPearson44.
- Martial Arts
- Sports & Recreation
- Chael Sonnen
- Wanderlei Silva
- Anderson Silva
- Frankie Edgar