The Ultimate Fighting Championship will have the event of the year if the action inside the Octagon in Chicago is half as entertaining as Rashad Evans’ and Chael Sonnen’s words.
During a conference last week to promote Saturday’s UFC on FOX 2 event at the United Center, Evans and Sonnen alternated between making outrageous claims and insulting foes old and new. The main event of the UFC’s second-ever broadcast television event is a light heavyweight fight between Evans and Phil Davis.
It is believed that if Evans can defeat Davis he will be in line for a grudge match against reigning UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
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Sonnen, meanwhile, will take on Michael Bisping to determine who will face UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva in June, if Silva agrees.
Silva is arguably the best fighter in the still-embryonic sport. The 36-year-old is 29-4-0, including a triangle choke submission of Sonnen at UFC 117.
Although he lost, Sonnen turned heads with his performance. Despite being submitted in the fifth round of their title fight, Sonnen had thoroughly dominated Silva with his wrestling for the majority of the fight.
Since then, Sonnen has routinely criticized and insulted Silva, including issuing a challenge to the middleweight champion after submitting Brian Stann with a choke at UFC 136 in Houston’s Toyota Center on Oct. 8.
Sonnen believes a rematch will not occur because Silva does not want to fight him again, despite his invective and the UFC’s fervent wishes for what would be a major revenue generating bout.
“Anderson Silva and I will never cross paths again. Our business is done. We will not fight under any circumstances. No matter how many rules or fake restraints he puts on it. He's not getting in the ring with me ever,” Sonnen said. “I can tell you, behind the scene, they've tried to put me and Anderson together four times. And four times, he said no.
“I called him out publically. You call out a Brazilian publicly, you're going to be fighting that Brazilian. That’s in their in their culture. And he sat there and covered his mouth and hid behind Charles Barkley which is a smart move. It saved him a trip to the hospital. Anderson Silva is not going to fight me. I don't believe he's going to fight Bisping. I don't believe he's going to fight again,” he continued.
“What I know as a fact is he turned me down four out of four times and he even said no to [UFC CEO] Lorenzo Fertitta's face. Face to face, not over the phone. Lorenzo brought him out, sat him down [and] said, ‘This is the fight we want.’ And Anderson said no.
“The reality is maybe he just doesn’t want to do it. I really don’t know and I don’t want to guess. He’s not on my radar anymore. I’m moving on. If I become the No. 1 contender and get past this thing, I’m going to sit down with [UFC President] Dana [White] and we’re going to have a talk about [welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre] or Jon Jones. But I’m not under any allusion that it’s going to be Anderson Silva.”
UFC announced earlier this week that the United Center has been sold out. A spokesperson told Metro that due to the UFC’s configuration, the United Center will hold more than 14,000 people. The United Center seats 19,717 for the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks and 20,917 for the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.
Follow Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.