One fighter bemoans the lack of an opponent, while another fighter essentially says, ‘hey, you could have fought me, if only you weren’t scared." Such is life in the UFC.
The fighter with no opponent in sight is Chael Sonnen. Sonnen, recently advanced his record to 29-13-1 when he submitted former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC Fight Night 26. Following the victory, which ended a two-fight losing streak, Sonnen made it clear he wanted Wanderlei Silva as his next opponent.
UFC president Dana White said he tried to make that fight happen, but alas, Silva wanted pay per view points to fight Sonnen as the co-main event at UFC 167, and that was something White seemed less than interested in discussing (via MMAFighting.com), "[Silva] said he won't fight him unless he gets PPV [points] so I guess he's gonna retire."
For his part, Silva filmed a video rant making all types of threats against, but failed to address the fact that the fight was not going to happen:
The inability to pick a fight with Silva left Sonnen telling MMAJunkie.com, "I'll need some fights to happen in the middleweight division (and) fights in the light-heavyweight division, but as it stands right now, there's no opponent."
One fighter that did not shy away from wanting to face Sonnen was Vitor Belfort. While Sonnen was in the Octagon in Boston trying to talk himself into a fighter with Silva, Belfort was calling Sonnen out on twitter:
@sonnench don't run from me. Why are u asking for wand? Let's fight.— Vitor Belfort (@vitorbelfort) August 18, 2013
That fight didn’t come to fruition. Instead, Belfort was booked to face Dan Henderson on November 9 in Brazil. Belfort’s take on why Sonnen didn’t accept his challenge is simple, Sonnen has no desire to ever fight Belfort.
Speaking on Monday’s edition of the MMA Hour, Belfort said:
He (Sonnen) was really relieved that the UFC didn’t give him to me. He was like ‘I’m glad I don’t have to fight Vitor.’ We have friends in common and one time he was on his camp and (Sonnen) said ‘one of the guys I’d never like to fight is Vitor Belfort.’ I’m cool, man. He’s around, I’m around. One day he’ll have to face me. It’ll be a great fight. One day. Who knows?
From a rankings standpoint, the fight with Belfort would make much more sense for Sonnen. Belfort sits in the No. 2 slot in the middleweight division, while Sonnen resides at No. 9. A win over Belfort, and Sonnen would rocket up the 185-pound rankings, maybe even setting himself up for another shot at the UFC title.
A win over Silva, who is unranked in any division, would pad Sonnen’s bank account, and generate a huge amount of pre-fight press. What that fight won’t do is help Sonnen’s standing in the middleweight or light-heavyweight divisions.
The Silva fight, while maybe a more personally desirable fight for Sonnen, really serves little purpose in the big picture.
Who will Sonnen fight next? As, Vitor Belfort states, who knows?