In but a few short weeks the biggest rematch in the history of MMA will take place in Las Vegas (not that you’d necessarily know based on advertising or hype), when Anderson Silva defends his UFC middleweight title against Chael Sonnen.
The best ever.
His defining nemesis.
All the marbles.
Some people love Silva, some hate him. Some people love Sonnen, some hate him. In that mix, it’s likely to be a noticeably split crowd when the two enter the cage.
But, with the most bankable fight they could possibly sell going down at UFC 148, what’s best for the UFC?
Looking at a Silva win, there’s plenty to like for the promotion.
Their most invincible champion confirms he’s the best ever, beating his greatest foil and proving the first time was no accident. When they write the book on the sport and talk about the greatest warriors of this generation, the Silva legacy will be officially unquestioned with two wins over Sonnen.
A Sonnen win, on the other hand, is much more of a here and now proposition.
The ultimate black hat, the only man to ever walk up to the most dangerous man on earth and stick a finger in his chest, to actively pick a fight with Silva and mean it with every fibre of his being, proves that he truly is the better man. From there, the inevitable immediate rematch and completion of the trilogy would likely secure the greatest rivalry ever as the most profitable as well.
What's better for the UFC?
Realistically, it’s win-win for them.
At a time when UFC cards are happening more often than a bachelor changes his underwear and injuries are leaving many of them in shambles, the capacity to have not only Silva-Sonnen II but also a trilogy bout has to be appealing. Sure, the legacy of Anderson Silva, The Undefeated Champion, is a nice idea, but it’s not as valuable to the UFC as the ability to finally get on a strong run of pay-per-view action and get some cash in coffers.
As it stands, after this weekend’s dreadful UFC 147 offering numbered events from 148 to 152 look promising. Names like Silva, Sonnen, Urijah Faber, Hector Lombard, Frankie Edgar, Jon Jones, Junior dos Santos, Cain Velasquez, Georges St-Pierre, and Carlos Condit are all slated to enter the cage during that time.
How good would it be for them to cap it off with another year-end battle between Sonnen and Silva, a final time and for the title that Oregon’s favorite son (or greatest shame, depending on who you ask) defends for the first time?
Pretty good, regardless of which man one would be rooting for. One would surely pay to see it a final time, particularly if the second incarnation is even half the fight the first one was.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see that a Sonnen win is more beneficial to the UFC at the moment. Anderson Silva’s legacy, while incredible and even more impressive should he continue his streak with another win over Sonnen, isn’t something the promotion can monetize right now. A third fight between the two, however, is.
At the end of the day, for the UFC, it’s all about making that bread (though not so much so that they kept Kimbo Slice, one of history’s all-time great bread makers, around). A Sonnen win assures they can do that one more time.
Even if he doesn’t know it yet, somewhere in the back of his head, Dana White will be rooting for Chael Sonnen at UFC 148.