For almost two years -- since losing a UFC middleweight title match in the fight's final moments -- Chael Sonnen has poked and prodded Anderson Silva, with pointed words as his choice of weapon. Occasionally he has landed a verbal haymaker, other times he's gone below the belt.
The one constant is that Silva has rarely answered him. Most of the time, he has been content to stay in his corner of the MMA world and dwell in an ever-increasing spotlight. He's become a major pay-per-view star, and is a bona fide Brazilian celebrity. As replies goes, it's a hell of a comeback, the MMA equivalent of "scoreboard!" we all shouted as kids when the losing team tried talking trash. But every man has his own personal point of no return, and with less than two weeks before their UFC 148 rematch, Silva has apparently had enough.
If we could equate trash-talk to the sport that it follows, what Anderson Silva did during a Monday afternoon conference call would be the equivalent of him getting a hold of Sonnen, rag-dolling him around the cage, taking him to the mat and pounding him unconscious. Basically, he beat Sonnen at his own game, letting the cap off two years of frustration.
The entire time, Silva spoke Portuguese, and it hardly mattered. You didn't need a Ph.D in foreign languages to hear the venom in his voice or the scorn he was spitting Sonnen's way. According to several Brazilian reporters on the call, Silva's interpreter Ed Soares actually softened Silva's comments, and they were still hot fire.
"First of all, Chael is a criminal," he began. "He’s been convicted of crimes. He doesn't deserve to be inside of the octagon. When the time comes and the time is right, I’m going to break his face and break every one of the teeth in his mouth."
That was the beginning of it, and if anything, Silva started off calmly and let his anger intensify, until getting out his frustration and simply hanging up. He had said everything he needed to say, and would no longer entertain Sonnen as a foil. But by then he didn't need to say anything else. He'd painted Sonnen as a felon, a fraud and a court jester.
Saying he was going to "beat him out of the UFC," Silva didn't promise just to win, but also to cause Sonnen injury unlike anything that had been seen in a cage before.
"What I'm going to do inside the octagon is something that's going to change the image of the sport," he said. "I'm going to beat his ass like he's never been beaten before. I'm going to make sure that every one of his teeth are broken, his arms are broken, his legs are broken. He’s not going to be able to walk out of the octagon by himself. I can guarantee that."
For once, this meant that Sonnen was relegated to the role of backup, a strange turn of events when it has come to Silva-Sonnen promotion. Since his own personal reinvention as a one-man mouthpiece, Sonnen has always seemed to be the focus of any media spotlight, and for good reason. He's a quote-a-minute thrill ride, but on Monday, he wasn't just unneeded, he was outgunned.
Part of that was because the media seized the opportunity to question the seething Silva, directing most of the questions his way. But part of it was because no one had ever really heard Silva like this. He was beyond angry, and the cause of his foul mood was going to pay. More than once, he cautioned Sonnen that this wasn't a joke, and that play time was over, and now, there was a price to be paid for all that's come before.
"There's going to be no difference in the end," Silva said. "The first time we fought he stepped out the loser. And he's going to step out losing again this time. The only difference is this time, he’s going to have to go see a plastic surgeon after the fight."
As far as what Sonnen thought about it all, no one knows. After he'd answered a question about 10 minutes into the call, Silva started spewing fire and never stopped, and by the time someone thought to ask Sonnen his reaction to it all, he, too, was gone.
If this all sounds like promotional marketing porn, you can bet that UFC president Dana White was thrilled at the turn of events. Silva certainly has style and personality in the cage, but because he speaks limited English, he doesn't always command headlines out of it. White said that the company was expecting to sell upwards of 1 million-pay-per-views, and possibly as many as UFC 100, which holds the company record with 1.6 million buys.
The stage doesn't matter so much to Silva, who said he is more interested in teaching Sonnen a lesson, saying he would beat him "the way his parents should have beat him to teach him some manners."
When Silva abandoned the group, the call was effectively over. Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin had been patiently waiting their turns, but White -- ever the showman -- knew the deal. Always leave them wanting more. He wrapped things up, saying the obvious.
"I honestly don't know what else Anderson Silva could say," he said.
And we honestly didn't know that he could say it.