Chael Sonnen hasn’t forgotten about Wanderlei Silva, not by a long shot.
While the self-proclaimed Gangster from West Linn., Ore., already has his Bellator MMA debut booked against fellow UFC veteran Tito Ortiz on Jan. 21, Sonnen is still seeking an eventual matchup with “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3” rival coach Wanderlei Silva.
Silva signed with Bellator MMA last year but won’t be eligible to compete until May 2017, as he is serving a three-year suspension for fleeing a drug test in 2014. “The Axe Murderer” is also still healing from injuries suffered in a bicycle accident in early 2016; those injuries reportedly forced him to pull out of Rizin’s year-end open-weight grand prix.
Sonnen and Silva famously brawled on “TUF: Brazil 3” and after the Brazilian recovered from a wrist injury sustained in the altercation, were booked to square off at UFC 175. However, Silva skipped a licensing hearing and of course, dodged the aforementioned drug test. Sonnen also failed a drug test leading up to the event and announced his retirement. Silva later called it a career in the aftermath before his lifetime ban was overturned by a Nevada judge. Now that both men are officially unretired, Sonnen is confident that they will have their day in the cage.
“The next time I see Wanderlei Silva, I’m gonna be fighting Wanderlei Silva,” Sonnen said during a conference call on Tuesday. “And he will tell you the same thing. The goal is that will be inside of a ring on an appropriate time. The next time I see him I’m going to be fighting him.”
While Sonnen has more pressing business to attend to with Ortiz at Bellator 170, he admitted that Silva’s presence is what brought him to the California-based promotion.
“I didn’t come to this organization to fight Tito Ortiz. I’ve been chasing Wanderlei Silva around,” he said. “Wanderlei’s busy until the summer. They called me and asked me if I’d fight Tito on Jan. 21. I didn’t have anything else going on so I said yes. “
Bellator MMA President Scott Coker sounded optimistic that he would eventually be able to make the Sonnen-Silva bout happen.
“He is still injured. He was going to fight in the Rizin tournament and he pulled out because he has not healed from the accident. It looks like he’ll be ready to go in the summer,” Coker said. “Wanderlei Silva is under contract with Bellator, so we have him for [multiple] years. I think it’s just a matter of time and hopefully we’ll be able to put that fight together.”
His bout with Ortiz is at 205 pounds, but Sonnen is open to competing in multiple weight classes in Bellator. However, in his mind, only one thing trumps a future date with Silva -- and it isn’t by much.
“[I’d take] a title shot [first]. Wanderlei is my entire driving factor. I thought I was done with this sport and my race was run, but I’ve got unfinished business with Wanderlei Silva,” Sonnen said. “But if if you’re asking me about a title, I’ll take the title shot and then I’ll go fight with Wanderlei. Title shots are hard to come by. Wanderlei, that’s a personal thing. Emotionally, it might be Wanderlei. But I would think that through logically, and I would take the title shot.”