It was revealed that UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva will defend his belt against Chael Sonnen on July 7th at UFC 148 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is big news as it was widely believed the defense would occur at UFC 147 on June 23rd, in Silva’s stomping grounds of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. UFC President Dana White said during a news conference in Rio de Janeiro that ”We wanted to do the fight here (Brazil) in a soccer stadium”, and “First we tried Sao Paulo, then we tried some stuff done in Rio”.
What this does to the main event is simple, it gives the home field advantage of possibly the biggest bout in UFC (or for that matter all of MMA) history from the champion, to the challenger. Silva will still undoubtedly get cheers as he is still as popular in the US as Sonnen may be hated at this point. The difference in the change of venues is that in Las Vegas, Sonnen will get some cheers. He will get a “USA” chant, he will get people patriotic enough to look past some of the antics Sonnen has produced in the past and cheer because he is from the same homeland as them. In other words, Chael Sonnen has a chance to get comfortable with his surroundings. Anderson Silva, while recognizing the difference, is unfazed by the change, stating “I don’t have fans only in Brazil, but worldwide…So regardless of where this fight is, I will be representing Brazil. I will be doing my job for the fans”.
On the other hand, in Brazil, Chael Sonnen would have been a marked man, hated by 100% of the fans and would have had to block out boo’s that might have been heard from our country’s shores. If UFC 142 was any indication, its easy to see these fans are passionate about the sport, and even more passionate about their countrymen. These fans would have wanted Sonnen’s head on a platter, and would have not settled for less. Anderson would have been able to come in with the momentum and the fans appreciation, and have the ability comfortably to come out and perform for fans that see him as their country’s hero.
While odds are Anderson Silva will still be favored to come out victorious on July 7th in what Sonnen called “The fight capital of the World”, Chael Sonnen may have just recorded the first major win of the fight by it being moved from Brazil to the United States.