In the lead up to this Saturday night's UFC 117 pay-per-view there will be hundreds of interviews and tons of coverage of the show and the fighters that will be appearing on it. Most of that coverage will center around the headlining fight between Middleweight champion Anderson Silva and venerable challenger Chael Sonnen. I really hate to feed into all the incredibly trollish behavior of Sonnen so instead we'll look at a few things that have come out regarding the champion, specifically an answer he gave to UOL and delivered by way of Fighters Only, regarding his long winning streak in the UFC:
UOL: You hold the UFC consecutive wins record. Does this bother the UFC?
AS: There’s always bother, right? Even more so with me being a Brazilian. I’m happy in the UFC but this sequence of wins bothers them because the promoters think the fights end up losing their intrigue and that people now want to see Anderson Silva lose. But it’s normal, just business.
I think Silva makes a pretty good point here. I've had plenty of discussions with hardcore MMA fans and even sports fans in general and there is always a prevailing theme; change is a good thing. If you're an NFL fan, is it any fun to see the same team win the Super Bowl every year? The same thing applies to MMA. I don't think a lot of people want to see the same guy defending the title over and over. It really doesn't sell well as evidenced by the fact that the UFC has had to load up the cards that Anderson appears on to help the buyrates. So I'm good with him saying that he believes people want to see him lose if only for a change. What I don't agree with is him saying it's even more so because he's Brazilian.
According to a quote from Tatame, Vitor Belfort says he'll be fighting the winner of this fight, no matter who it is:
"I’m waiting for a call from the UFC, nothing has been set yet. Dana White and Lorenzo (Fertitta) told me it’d be the winner of this bout. For now what I can do is wait, but I’ll accept whatever they offer me, I’ll be excited", said Belfort, who does not think about another possibility than the belt dispute. "I want the belt, it doesn’t matter who I have to defeat. That’s what I hope, and that’s what UFC wants, Dana and Lorenzo told me that, so let’s wait to see the result of this fight between Anderson and Sonnen to see who it’ll be", concluded.
So Vitor is saying that Dana and Lorenzo want him to challenge for the title. Belfort is a Brazilian fighter so why would they want Anderson to lose because he is Brazilian and then turn around and give the next title shot to another Brazilian fighter? I know Silva didn't necessarily say that it's JUST because of his nationality but still I thought it was a weird thing to say. I love a good conspiracy as much as the next guy but that's reaching.
Perhaps the reason they don't want him to be champion anymore would be his extremely limited ability to draw on pay-per-view and his propensity to dance around and make a mockery of fights he doesn't believe that he belongs in. He has shown over and over that he doesn't know how to sell a show to the fans and the UFC can't like that. I'm sure they would love it if Sonnen could come away with the title. He's got a big mouth and a lot of people enjoy guys who can talk big and then back it up.
As far as Belfort goes, would he be much better as champion? I know he was very popular when he was originally with the UFC back in the early days but how much now? His return fight at UFC 103 against Rich Franklin did 375,000 buys. Vitor performed beautifully in that match but not that many people saw it. The X factor here is that Vitor fights with a style that is very much to Dana White's, and the casual fan's, liking. He's a boxer with plenty of speed and a ton of power. If he catches you on the chin, you're going to sleep. Personally, I'm ok with Silva keeping his title for however long it takes to find a guy to beat him. Is Sonnen the guy to do it? I don't think so. Is Belfort? Maybe. That's enough intrigue for me.