Chael Sonnen Can’t Give Up the Ghost & Will Box Anderson Silva

May 22, 2024
4 weeks

Chael Sonnen retired from fighting nearly five years ago. But the self-proclaimed “American Gangster” still utilizes his most dangerous weapon: his mouth. Sonnen has been involved with commentary for Bellator and PFL and doing spots on ESPN. 

One of the more surprising online boxing news announcements recently was Sonnen saying he would head to Brazil to box Anderson Silva on June 15. Silva and Sonnen have a long history, dating back to their time in the UFC.

The first championship fight between Sonnen and Silva gave boxing its Billy Conn moment. Sonnen, a heavy underdog, battered Silva for five rounds before being submitted. With Silva, 49, and Sonnen, 47, both getting close to 50, neither man will be the version of himself from the first time they fought.

However, in a fight Silva is billing as his retirement bout, he couldn’t have picked a better opponent to help him. Sonnen has spent his lifetime talking junk to opponents. He wasn’t afraid to say anything that came to mind, including some nasty stuff about Silva’s native Brazil.

But all of the history between these two men comes back to their wild fight at UFC 117. That fight was recently inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.

Who is Billy Conn?

Anyone who loves boxing history should be familiar with the story of Billy Conn. Conn fought Joe Louis for the heavyweight championship in 1946. Conn, a heavy underdog, led Lewis on the cards going into the 13th round. 

Instead of continuing to try and outpoint Lewis, Conn decided to knock the championship out. Things ended in a disaster. Lewis knocked out Conn instead, defending his championship with a wild result.

Sonnen found himself in a similar position at UFC 117 when fighting for the UFC middleweight championship. Because of his ability to talk, Sonnen rode a three-fight winning streak into a bout with Silva. Silva had largely dominated MMA then, and many figured Sonnen would be another easy victim.

But Sonnen was far from it. Sonnen took Silva down over and over again. When Silva was on the ground, Sonnen launched heavy ground and pound. Going into the fifth round, Silva was ahead on the judges’ scorecards.

MMA latest updates show that Sonnen couldn’t help himself to fight conservatively. Sonnen took Silva down again and looked for a knockout on the ground. But Silva threw up a triangle and forced Sonnen to tap out.

Failed Drug Test and Rematch

While Sonnen and Conn’s fight stories are similar, their aftermaths differ greatly. Even if Sonnen had pulled off the improbable and beat Silva, he would have been stripped of the belt. Sonnen tested positive for elevated testosterone levels. 

Despite that, Silva agreed to rematch Sonnen at UFC 148 nearly two years later. Sonnen’s strategy of wrestling Silva worked again in the first round. However, Sonnen would make another disastrous decision.

During the second round, Sonnen attempted a spinning backfist and fell. Silva bounced on him, finishing the fight with a strong knee and punches. Sonnen would get another title shot, against Jon Jones at light heavyweight, but never got close to touching UFC gold.

Sonnen fought for nine more years after losing the rematch with Silva. While Sonnen had a few notable wins, he mostly fought other aging veterans in Bellator. Sonnen finished with a 31-17-1 record. He lost his last career fight by flying knee and punches in the second round against Lyoto Machida.

Silva Never Quit Fighting

While Silva stepped away from the UFC in 2020, he didn’t stay away from combat sports for long. Silva surprised many people by winning a split decision over Julio César Chávez Jr. in June 2021. He turned around three months later and knocked out former UFC champion Tito Ortiz in the first round of another boxing match.

One fight Silva got involved in was much more controversial. Silva fought influencer-turned-boxer Jake Paul in October 2022. Paul’s fights have been controversial because the much younger Paul has been beating up on retired MMA fighters.

Unlike Tyrone Woodley and Ben Askren, Silva didn’t get knocked out by Paul. Silva landed several solid punches but wasn’t able to beat Paul. Silva lost a unanimous decision.

Why Have a Trilogy Match

Sonnen is a good pick for Silva’s final fight. If Silva wants a big audience, he needs an opponent that can help promote the event. Sonnen is still all over the media.

In addition to his obligations for ESPN, Sonnen is a frequent podcast guest on many different shows. Sonnen is still willing to try and dig and get underneath people’s skin. Silva isn’t quite the talker that Sonnen is.

Sonnen’s Rivalry with Brazil

One of Sonnen’s most notorious approaches to promoting fights has been attacking the home country of his many Brazilian opponents. Sonnen was not shy to say things to rile up the Brazilian audiences intentionally. During one promotional lead up to the Silva fights, Sonnen attacked Brazil aggressively.

“When I was a little kid, I’d go outside with my friends, and we’d talk about the latest technology, medicine, gaming and American ingenuity,” Sonnen said. “Anderson and the Brazilian kids were outside playing in the mud.”

Sonnen also called the Portuguese language one step above pig Latin. In another outlandish remark, Sonnen described why he wasn’t afraid of fighting Brazilian opponents.

“Those guys and their blow darts don’t scare me,” Sonnen said. 

With that kind of incendiary talk, people may forget both guys are pushing 50. Silva wants to go out with a bang. Picking up another emphatic win over the cocky American could send everyone home happy. The latest boxing news online shows that this will be a chance for fans to see two veterans compete one more time.

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By Dean McHugh.