UFC president Dana White, middleweight champion Anderson Silva, and middleweight challenger Chael Sonnen were in Brazil earlier this week to hold a press conference announcing the moving of the Silva vs. Sonnen rematch from UFC 147 in Brazil to UFC 148 in Las Vegas.
The reason for the change was, for the most part, was out of the control of the UFC. That doesn’t make it any more popular to the Brazilian fight fans and media that were so looking forward to the fight taking place on Silva’s home turf in Rio de Janeiro.
In fact, it made for a somewhat sketchy situation for Sonnen, already not the most popular foreign fighter to ever set foot on Brazilian soil. So much so that the UFC took appropriate measures to keep him safe when he and White darted in and out of Brazil for Tuesday’s press conference.
“We had proper security with us,” White said in a report in the Orange County Register. “We had like seven guys with us. These are guys that mapped out the whole route. We literally landed at the airport in Rio, a shuttle took us through customs, jumped on helicopters, and the helicopters took us right to the hotel.
“I came through the front door. We put (Sonnen) through a side door. We had him in a holding room. We went down to the press conference and he had a scrum. The reporters were getting really aggressive with him at the scrum. Somebody got him with a shock pen and all kinds of stuff like that. He went out the side door. I went out the front door.
“Helicopters took us back. We got on a plane and got him out of there. I wanted to make sure we got in and out and got him safe.”
Many conspiracy theorists will take White’s comments as more fuel for the fire that Sonnen never intended to fight Silva in Brazil in the first place, primarily because he was worried about his safety there.
The fact of the matter is, however, that the United Nations is holding its Rio+20 conference in Rio de Janeiro the same week as was planned for UFC 147. Rio+20 is expected to bring more than 50,000 to the city, while UFC 147, with Silva vs. Sonnen as the main event, was intended to be held in a soccer stadium holding somewhere between 60,000 to 80,000 fans.
Logistical issues such as adequate hotel space, public transportation, security, and other issues led the UFC to pull the trigger on moving the rematch to its July event, UFC 148 in Las Vegas.
Conspiracy theorists take aim… but then again, there is some validity to the security concerns. White acknowledged as much by his comments about the way they handled security for he and Sonnen just in announcing the change, let alone if Sonnen got to the point of going to Rio to fight Silva there.
“I’m still getting texts, ‘Did you and Sonnen get out of Brazil alive last night? I haven’t heard from you. Give me an update,’” White continued. “I made (Sonnen) ride in a different car than me.”
UFC 147 is still expected to take place in Brazil, likely with UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo defending his belt against Erik Koch in the main event, with a co-main event pitting Ultimate Fighter: Brasil coaches Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort against on another. It will now, however, be moved to a smaller venue and could still possibly receive a date change, although neither of those details has been announced as of yet.