Former three-time UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen has joked that he got more street credibility for ‘winning’ his scuffle with Wanderlei Silva on the set of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3, than he did fighting inside the cage.
Although their scuffle took place in 2014, the seeds were sown years earlier when Sonnen unleashed verbal assaults on Anderson Silva and his home country of Brazil in the lead up to their first fight at UFC 117 in 2010. The American dominated the fight and was minutes away from beating the Brazilian, but tapped to a triangle armbar late in the fifth round.
The two eventually rematched at UFC 148, where Anderson Silva finished the job inside two rounds. Although the two arch-rivals went on to bury the hatchet, Sonnen’s comments were not forgotten by some. And certainly not by ‘The Axe Murderer’.
Considering the animosity between the two, the UFC decided to make Wanderlei Silva and Sonnen the coaches for The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3, where on one of the days filming, the two came face-to-face and exchanged heated words, before getting into a physical altercation. Speaking to the UFC, ‘The American Gangster’ recalled the infamous incident.
“I kept looking at the cameramen and the director, and I was like open the door and let the guys come in,” Sonnen said. “This is getting heated. I wasn’t smart enough to understand that yeah that’s what they wanted. They kind of wanted some of those moments. You got to understand from my perspective this is not the first time he put hands on me, so I was very cautious.
“A lot of people will say let the other guy throw the first punch; my dad did not believe in that at all. He said the fight begins as soon as they’re within arms’ reach. There’s a confrontation and they get within arms’ reach, they just started the fight. You don’t have to wait for anything.”
Fighting in Flip Flops
While Sonnen reveals he’s fought barefoot dozens of times before, he claimed that he got more street credibility from the fans for fighting in flip flops.
“I got to tell you, I got more street cred for winning that fight in flip flops and I never really understood it because I’m used to getting in fights barefoot,” Sonnen said. “Flip flops were a step up from what I’m used to.
“One of the producers told me, ‘You know, I watched what happened and we thought about editing it out just making it go away because it’s such a black eye moment. He said, ‘Chael, there’s just something very compelling about two fighters fighting when they’re not supposed to fight.’”
Silva injured his back during the brawl, resulting in the postponement of the end-of-season fight between the two. They settled their rivalry a few years later at Bellator 180 however, where Sonnen won via unanimous decision.