If you're like me, you're instantly interested once you hear Wanderlei Silva start a sentence with, "In Brazil, we have a saying..." You add the fact that he happens to be speaking to Chael Sonnen when he says it, and you've got yourself a recipe for something memorable.
Here's the scene in a video put out by Silva's Wand Fight Team this week: while in Austin, Texas to do some promo work surrounding UFC Fight Night 22 last Wednesday, Silva and Sonnen find themselves riding in the same UFC van. They talk about Sonnen's next fight, which at the time was a scheduled rematch with middleweight champ Anderson Silva (this is before Sonnen got some bad news from the CSAC, remember) and it prompts Wanderlei to give Sonnen, who makes for an uncomfortably captive audience, a little unsolicited advice.
"I'm thinking, you make a challenge. You sell the fight, you make a promotion, it's good," Silva says at about the 4-minute mark of the above video. "But you need to be careful talking about some things like Brazil. You're talking bad things about Brazil. You don't know Brazil."
It's here where we're forced to consider that, as fun as Sonnen's over-the-top trash talk might be, Silva has a point, even if Sonnen would rather dismiss it on the grounds that he's visited Brazil and is therefore some sort of expert.
You see, the stuff Sonnen has said about Brazil, insulting its culture and language, that's just comedy to those of us who assume that Sonnen is adopting an intentionally obnoxious persona for the purposes of hype. Actual Brazilians probably don't find it so funny, though. It's the same when Silva takes on Sonnen's criticism of the Nogueira brothers.
"These guys are the history of the sport," Silva says. "We need to respect these guys. You challenging [Anderson Silva] is okay. You know, one to one. The promotion is good, but you need to respect some things."
This is where Wanderlei's earnest worldview meets Sonnen's sarcastically self-serving one. To Sonnen, making fun of the Nogueiras and the Brazilian culture is a way to get laughs and camera time. To Silva, it's just unnecessarily disrespectful, and doesn't Sonnen respect anything?
Surely he does, as anyone who's ever heard him talk about Randy Couture and Matt Lindland already knows. Those guys have earned their respect with what they've done in the sport. Then again, so have the Nogueira brothers, especially in the eyes of fellow Brazilians.
This brings us back to Wanderlei's dose of Brazilian wisdom: "In Brazil, we have a saying," he tells Sonnen. "You have respect, you don't lose your teeth."
First of all, you really want to purposely anger people from a country with sayings like that? Because I'd think twice about it.
But second, at what point do you stop being known as the hilarious fighter whose gimmick is that he insults everyone, all the time, and start being known as the guy who respects nothing at all except the sound of his own voice? Perhaps more importantly, is that really the legacy you want to leave behind when your career is over?
Because you can say what you will about Wanderlei, but at least he knows that when it's just him and another fighter in a van together hurtling down a highway, there's nothing but respect coming his way, and for all the right reasons.