For months, UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen has endured a grueling one-man barnstorming tour. He's been on Jim Rome, SportsCenter, even here at Bleacher Report, doing his best to make UFC 148 the biggest event in the sport's history.
Sonnen, love him or hate him, has been remarkable. But he's also been out there all alone. Anderson Silva has been strangely and ominously silent. The champion has left promotion of the fight up to the challenger—until now.
While Chael shined in the months leading up to the bout, Silva has taken the event's promotion into his own steady hand as we approach the bell to start the fight.
First there was his uncharacteristic outburst during a media conference call. Silva threatened to break Sonnen's bones and teeth, promising to beat him like his parents should have. Silva's dramatic talk had the ring of truth, a ring too often missing from Sonnen's broadsides. This felt less like shtick and more like serious business.
It was such a powerful moment that the UFC took the unusual step of completely changing up their event marketing. Silva's strong words were suddenly front and center. Finally, he seemed just as invested in the fight as Sonnen.
His strong PR showing continued at the open workouts where he garnered international attention by sparring ever so gently with soccer legend Ronaldo and convincing Steven Seagal to enter into a slow motion slap-fight with one of his sparring partners.
And then there was the weigh in.
I've been to more than 20 live UFC events, but I have never seen anything quite like this. The crowd that filled the Mandalay Bay Event Center was absolutely insane. The UFC counted around 8000 souls in the arena, all of them with a passionate opinion about Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen.
I took my customary seat at the very top of the arena. I can always spread out there and get a good view of the whole crowd.
How many people will buy UFC 148 on PPV?
Not this time. Soon, people were sitting on all sides. Some unfurled a giant Brazilian flag, waving it when they had the notion to and chanting "You're going to die" at Chael Sonnen. When Silva shoulder checked Sonnen during the face off, the crowd, already at a fever pitch, took things to a whole new level of frantic.
It was so loud by the time Joe Rogan was interviewing the fighters that I couldn't hear exactly what was being said. The gist of Silva's comments were clear—the big mouthed Sonnen is going to pay for his words with an epic butt chomping. Sonnen's message was clear as well.
Buy this fight and buy it now.
For Anderson Silva, it was better late than never. After a quiet buildup, he's done more than his fair share to push this thing to the top, possibly making it the biggest combat sports pay per view of the year.
Dana White says internal predictive analytics say this could be the biggest UFC show of all time. If so, you can't say Silva didn't pull his weight. Suddenly the Sonnen monologue became a duet. It's made the wait for Saturday night all the harder—and made the UFC millions.