Chael Sonnen wasn’t the hero The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil deserved, but he was the one it needed when Wanderlei Silva nearly walked off the set of the reality TV show.
The self-proclaimed “Oregon Gangster” has a knack for getting under the thickest of skin with his quick-witted humor and nonchalant gibes. It wasn’t any surprise when Silva went all “Axe Murderer” on Sonnen after hearing some of his past satirical wisecracks about Brazil.
“The promotion is good, but you need to respect some things. [The Nogueira brothers]; and the country, you know. We need to have good conduct about that. Don’t do that anymore,” Silva had warned Sonnen during a van ride to a promotional event for the UFC back in 2010.
Fast forward a couple of years later, and Sonnen was onstage at a Q&A for UFC 145, still hurling verbal jabs at the country Silva calls home: "I packed a suitcase full of gifts, full of things from America that [Brazilians] don’t have. I’m trying to merge the two countries in a way that we can work together. For example, I brought packets of soap for them. I brought shampoo, I brought them dental floss."
Sonnen knew his path would converge with Silva sooner or later, but it definitely came as a surprise when the UFC announced the two would serve as opposing coaches on TUF Brazil, which would actually be filmed in Silva's home country.
This wasn’t Sonnen’s first rodeo on TUF. He wowed in Season 17 by turning in one of the best coaching performances in the history of the show.
But would anybody care once his plane touched down on Brazilian soil? How would the native fighters react to Sonnen after some of the controversial things that were said?
There was no denying Silva’s reaction upon meeting with his longtime rival—complete disdain and utter disgust. In a recent UFC promo of one episode, Silva approaches Sonnen in front of the entire cast and asks him to apologize for past comments about Brazil. When Sonnen refuses, Silva threatens to walk out on the show.
“Well, I gave him an opportunity to redeem himself at that moment about everything he said regarding our country, not about me or any other athlete,” says Silva. “I believe that making fun of a country’s issues and joking about poor kids, it really made me upset. I was not in the mood to stay on the show. I was going to quit it and wait for a few days until he decides to redeem himself and apologize.”
Initial assumptions of the show penned Sonnen as the bad guy who was heading into enemy territory, but fans tuning in could be in for a bit of a surprise.
As Silva briefly walks out on his team, Sonnen sets the tone by showing the young fighters that he is strictly there for them, not to aggrandize his feud with Silva.
The coaches will have their day to settle everything in the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 42 on May 31, but for now, their primary focus should be on honing the abilities of the fighters and maximizing their opportunities.
Still, Sonnen is shocked that Silva would even consider walking out on his own countrymen during filming.
“I don’t know that he was wrong. I just thought it was really confusing,” Sonnen says in the TUF Brazil promo. “I thought, 'Wanderlei, I’m the bad guy, you’re the good guy. We’re now switching roles. You’ve become the bad guy, and now I’ve got to talk you into coming in and coaching a show of your countrymen. This isn’t how this was supposed to go.'”
One more win for Chael Sonnen, the good guy?
Things are already beginning to heat up just three episodes into TUF Brazil. Each new episode is available every Sunday at 9 p.m. PT/12 a.m. ET only on UFC Fight Pass.