Wanderlei Silva will headline Bellator’s most important card in the promotion’s history in June and, finally, will get the chance to go head-to-head with long-time rival Chael Sonnen in an MMA cage. The fight, although not with a belt on the line, will be the last of the big night and sports three title fights as support for the New York City show.
Not yet able to produce superstars at the same rate as it snatches fans around the globe, MMA is still often relying on its veterans and pioneers to generate crowds and numbers, even though many of those legends are past their prime and unable to perform at the level that made them popular years – or decades – ago. With that in mind, Vitor Belfort recently revealed his desire to create a ‘Legends League’, sort of a veteran’s division. It’s an idea that his old rival Wanderlei Silva can get behind.
“A ‘Legends league’ of fighters at our age, over 40, is very interesting”, Silva told AG. Fight. “Suddenly, with rounds that are a little bit shorter and a little bit of a longer break (in between rounds), there are a lot of good guys that could make our sport grow. (It’s a) great idea, it’s very good for the fans to see those fighters live who they never could. I had the honor of seeing Royce Gracie against Ken Shamrock live. Fans appreciate the quality of the fight, but more important is to be part of the story.”
Not currently showing the desire to win a belt once more in his career, “The Axe Murderer” already has three names in mind for after his fight against Sonnen: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort – all these former rivals are names that Silva sees as potential opponents after facing them back in Pride FC, the UFC or both promotions. While Jackson, whom Silva fought three times already, now also fights for Bellator but recently went up to the heavyweight division, Henderson retired last October. And while compatriot Belfort has already stated that he will be making his last UFC appearance in June before hanging up his gloves, nothing seems to shake Silva’s belief that he’ll get his revenge against Belfort, who famously knocked him out in 44 seconds at UFC Sao Paulo in 1998.
“These three fights are the kind of fights that I would like to do”, Silva said. “Renowned names, fights that are going to have an audience (…). I have a story with each one of them.”
Back in 2014, when they coached the third season of “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil”, Silva and Chael Sonnen briefly fought each other on set during filming. With one punch being thrown and one takedown being landed before the scuffle was broken up, there is clearly a lot of bad blood left between the two rivals.
“It’s the same feeling”, Silva insisted. “The rivalry is stronger than ever, it’s one of the only fights I would like to have done and I did not do it. I’m very happy to make this fight and, more than that, this guy… I’m glad I did not go to the press conference, I’m focused, and the next time I see him, I will get to put my hands on him. I don’t like this talking. Aldo and McGregor, I don’t know how Aldo managed to control himself, I don’t have that kind of control. If you say bullshit, I’ll put my hands on you.”