Anderson Silva has never been able to sell pay per views on his own, it started with a language barrier, then it was fans reacting to his own disinterest and lately it's been his shoddy performances in his last three title defenses. Silva's last title defense at UFC 112 against Demian Maia was one of the worst fights I've ever seen. It was so bad that Dana White apologized for the disgrace of the main event before the start of the prefight press conference and then even threatened to cut Anderson Silva from the UFC if he acted like that again in the cage. The main story for the media going into this fight was expected to be Anderson Silva and whether he would actually give a damn in the cage this time.
Enter Chael Sonnen. Sonnen earned his title shot after back to back impressive decision victories over top contenders Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt. Sonnen had started trashing Anderson Silva as far back as when he was first brought into the UFC in the beginning of 2009. At first it was a mild nuisance, especially after Sonnen quickly lost his UFC debut to Demian Maia in one of 2009's best submissions, but after three straight victories, Sonnen's mouth started gaining some steam.
Talk began to shift away from Silva's horrible performance at UFC 112 instead moving to Sonnen and his big fat mouth.
Ladies and Gentleman, this isn’t going to be a war. It’s going to be a one-sided pounding and I’m swinging the hammer.
Sonnen continued to outdo him self day in and day out with ridiculous twitter statements from an account that he claimed was his, then not his, then his again. To some, Sonnen was the white knight in shining armor with the skills that could finally have an opportunity to dethrone the uncaring and unforgiving champion.
Then of course, Sonnen starting taking things too far, with xenophobic, homophobic and even cancerphobic? remarks against Lance Armstrong. Again he claimed he'd never said them or done the interviews despite being confronted with audio evidence. Fan opinion began to shift back towards Silva's side.
Neither fighter is extremely well liked at this point in their careers, but Chael Sonnen has now pushed this fight as hard if not harder than any fighter in UFC history. Fans are going to buy it because they either want to see him take the championship from Silva or they want to see him catch an elbow uppercut to the face.
The craziest part of all this is that Sonnen isn't even getting a portion of the pay per view revenue, that's all Silva. All Silva has had to do for this fight was train and give one word answers to the media. Sonnen has done all the heavy lifting. Sonnen has distracted the media away from Silva's horrible title defenses and put the focus entirely on himself. Sonnen may have also forced fans to cheer for Silva with his antics. It was evident at the weigh-ins yesterday that fan support has been pushed Silva's way when Silva received decent cheers mixed with boos while Sonnen was booed heavily.
Tonight, after Anderson Silva has had his way with Sonnen, he should scrape him up off the cage floor and give him a big hug.