Set to headline the biggest event in Bellator MMA’s history, Wanderlei Silva will finally lock horns with Chael Sonnen, a bitter rival of his since the two of them coached the third season of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” back in 2014. The delayed blockbuster bout will be held on June 24 in New York’s Madison Square Garden, and to prepare for the fight, the former Pride FC champion decided to head to Evolución Thai in Brazil. And if you ask André “Dida” Amado, the Curitiba based team’s leader, “The Axe Murderer” will be well prepared to beat the popular American since the whole training routine is being adapted to meet the needs of the aging veteran’s body.
At age 40, Silva has not been seen inside the cage since knocking out Brian Stann in March of 2013, which explains Dida’s concern to set up a training schedule specifically cut out for the physical needs of his friend and now student. Still, despite his age, Dida said that Silva is doing well and keeping up with the younger athletes at Thai Evolution.
“There are only a few of his generation left who are fighting”, Dida said. “And he’s there, he’s sparring hard and strong with the younger kids. Those guys do three to four trainings a day, and Wanderlei trains just the same. He has the edge in experience and he uses it and he will use it even more. Today, with his experience, it is not necessary to break out everything in the training room but we are taking care of that part a lot. We adapt the training for his body and the fighting style of Chael Sonnen. Wanderlei is ready to face him and this is my job. Wanderlei knows what he will find up there because he has gone through everything.”
Like Silva, Chael Sonnen is a veteran of the fight game. The American, who has competed for both the UFC’s middleweight and light-heavyweight belts, is also in his 40s – which, in a sense, guarantees somewhat of a level playing field. Not that the fight is going to be exactly close, according to Silva’s coach.
“The audience will have the opportunity to see Wanderlei whack him, showing that he is the guy and that he is ready”, Dida teased. “We will not give Sonnen that taste of letting this fight go long. My prediction is a knockout because Wanderlei Silva comes in to kill (…). We only need one hand, one blow that connects. Wanderlei has very strong power in his hands, in his knees and with his head kicks for this fight against Sonnen.”
In addition to detailing some of Silva’s preparation and giving his prediction, Dida did not shy away from the controversy in which he became involved with Sonnen during the filming of “TUF: Brazil”. Dida served as one of the team’s assistant coaches, and when Silva and Sonnen started a brawl on set, the coach intervened in the least deescalating manner possible as he began punching his friend’s rival. However, the 33-year-old now regrets his attitude and claimed that he acted on impulse.
“My name was in the mouth of a lot of people who know nothing of what it is like to struggle (…). Wanderlei Silva and I have a story and, as I said, it was a wrong situation for both of us and there was no way I was not going wrong in that situation. I could do nothing at that moment, emotion took over my body and I tried to finish that situation as quickly as possible. I saw Sonnen attacking, and I said, ‘He will not hurt anyone here.’”