Bellator NYC (and Bellator 180, which airs immediately prior to the Pay-per-View card) goes down in less than two weeks. June 24 at Madison Square Garden in New York, Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen will finally square off to settle one of MMA’s most notable feuds over the past few years.
While both fighters are a little long in the tooth, and Silva hasn’t fought since March of 2013, there’s an undeniable allure to the bout. Maybe it’s the chance to see the old Pride warrior that is Silva, also known as The Axe Murderer, swing away for what could possibly be the last time (though he has other ideas). Maybe it’s the fight selling abilities of Sonnen, who hasn’t won a bout since August of 2013, yet manages to get more press than most of his more relevant contemporaries. Maybe the whole thing is just a guilty pleasure, especially with the rescheduled Fedor Emelianenko vs. Matt Matrione serving as co-main event.
The fighters themselves, mind you, are taking this contest deadly serious. At today’s Bellator NYC conference call, attended by Cageside Press and a host of other media outlets, headliners Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen made that perfectly clear.
Both men, frankly, have talked about the need for the promotion to keep them away from each other prior to the bout, with Silva suggesting it was part of the reason he cancelled a previously scheduled press conference to promote the fight. When asked about the possibility of a confrontation before the fight June 24, Silva responded by saying “I’m professional. I hope I [see] him just inside the cage.”
The Brazilian legend wasn’t entirely clear on exactly what irks him the most about Sonnen, other than the obvious amount of trash talk the American has lobbed in his direction. In fact, he has left America and returned to his native Brazil in part because of what he seems to see as a culture of disrespect. “The rules are different here in the U.S. In the U.S., you can talk all you want, nobody gonna do nothing. In Brazil, it’s different.”
On Sonnen in particular, Wanderlei Silva said simply “He knows I’m right, and he’s wrong. He’s done a lot of bad things to me here. Now it’s time for payback.”
For his part, Chael Sonnen doesn’t care who’s wrong.
“He can be right and I can be wrong” Sonnen replied. “He wants to make a case about this? He can have it. I concede. I don’t give a damn anyway. I don’t like Wanderlei Silva.”
Sonnen compared his relationship with Silva to that of any office denizen with a hated co-worker. “Everybody listening has somebody in the office that if they could take them outside and get in a fight with them, they would. Everybody on the job site has somebody there that if they could fight, they would. I happen to be in an industry where we can.”
“I don’t like him and he doesn’t like me.”
One thing that does seem to get under Sonnen’s skin was the possibility of Silva getting into it with him in front of his wife, no doubt stemming from all the talk about the two possibly coming to blows prior to entering the cage. Sonnen ended his time at the press call with a simple message with that in mind:
“Wanderlei Silva: you attacked me. That happened. If you attack me, I’m going to do some very bad things to you within the rules. If you attack me in front of my wife, there are no rules.”
With that, Sonnen was gone from the call. Consider it a mic drop. The proceedings went forward, but they were far less animated.