When all is said and done, Chael Sonnen is going to be the most important fighter in Anderson Silva’s career. He may have lost to him twice, and will probably remembered more for his trash talk than anything else when all is said and done, but he showed two sides of the champion that took a while to come out: his grace and his humanity.
We tend to take Silva for granted, and will continue to do so, because of how good he’s been for so long. It’s hard to think of someone as a challenge to him and two years ago Sonnen’s near victory proved the man’s mettle. Silva pulled off the win, when all hope was seemingly lost, and all the disparaging remarks we made about the man after a handful of lackluster wins seemed to disappear. The aura was back and the man we called the pound for pound best fighter in the world seemed worthy of the mantle again. That Sonnen victory propelled him to resemble the fighter feared by everyone in the middleweight division as he followed it up with two dominating wins over Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami.
But Sonnen still loomed over him, mainly because the former Olympic alternate wouldn’t shut up about how better he felt he was than the champion.
When Silva finished Sonnen in dominating fashion after being outclassed in the first, it would’ve been the perfect moment for him to have his own Brock Lesnar type of moment. He could’ve talked all sorts of trash about him after the challenger had stepped over almost every line possible en route to getting the rematch. If there ever was a moment for “The Spider” to just let loose and say everything he ever wanted to say, to rub in the fresh wounds with salt in the same manner that Lesnar screamed “Talk all the [trash] you want now” directly to Mir after he finished him, now was the moment. But he did something that was above that.
“Ah, yeah, please, ladies and gentlemen,” the 37champion said in his shockingly high voice. “I don’t have nothing for Chael. He disrespected my country? Fine. This is sport. This is UFC.”
In terms of post fight trash talk it was classy and dignified. He could’ve said lots and lots of things but he didn’t; it was a grace and dignity in victory that only a fighter like Chael could’ve brought out of him. Sonnen is the only opponent who really got any sort of intense reaction out of the champion for an extended period of time. Anderson wanted to hurt him severely, or so he said, but when the finish was nigh he stopped as soon as Yves Lavigne stepped in. He could’ve kept punching, like Quinton Jackson against Wanderlei Silva, and people could’ve justified it based on their personal rivalry. There were plenty of things he would’ve done, that many of us would’ve done in the same situation, and he handled it in a way that real champions handle it.
In the end he showed a grace in victory many of Sonnen’s fans couldn’t immediately after.
“I want everyone to applaud for Chael,” he said as he brought the challenger to him and Joe Rogan. “Chael, thank you for fight, bro. If you’d like to have barbeque at my house, I’d love to have you over for barbeque.”
It may have been a bit humorous considering Sonnen’s comments in that regard, and perhaps a little jab from the champion, but it was perfectly timed and graceful. It was the exact opposite reaction many people thought Silva would’ve had, or could’ve, and it took a fighter like Chael Sonnen to bring it out of him. Everything inside of him probably said to rub it in worse than anything Sonnen had said to him in the two years plus of build up to the fight.
In the end he showed grace when he didn’t have to. When the time comes, and Anderson Silva wakes up and gets old one day, we ought to remember moments like this. It’s the way a champion handles a win like this. He’s a class act, a killer, and now perhaps the greatest of all time.
Tags: anderson silva, Chael Sonnen, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC 148