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Chael Sonnen: Wanderlei Silva was a complete struggle to work alongside

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In a season filled with many incidents and near confrontations, the TUF Brazil show with Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva, taped in Portuguese for Brazilian consumption, will have worldwide distribution on UFC's new Fight Pass subscription service.

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

On Sunday, the road to Chael Sonnen's fight with Wanderlei Silva begins in a unique place. The Sonnen-Silva season of The Ultimate Fighter, taped for Globo in Brazil, will air worldwide only on UFC Fight Pass, it's new on-line paid subscription service.

A season that looked to be among the most anticipated in recent years is being used not only to promote a fight, but to jump start subscriptions to the service, which also includes a live fight card from England the day before.

After a promotional advertisement for the season, filed with Silva threats, Sonnen counters, and the beginning of a skirmish, aired on Fight Pass, an edited version on YouTube had 1.3 million viewers over the next 48 hours.

"As far as the incident with Wanderlei, there were many incidents," Sonnen said. "One of them has garnered more attention than the others. The guy was a complete struggle on a daily basis to work alongside."

Dana White noted that putting together a video was more deciding what to leave out than put in.

"We have a treasure chest of s*** from this show," said White via text message.

Ever the master at building a fight, Sonnen's tact with Silva is to say his Japanese success wasn't close to how it looked, and his UFC record is among the worst ever.

"Wanderlei's record is the single worst in the history of the UFC," he claimed. "That's not just the Zuffa owned UFC, but the SEG UFC as well. He currently has five wins and eight losses. That is the record. He's won his last two fights, so that means at one point he had three wins and eight losses. There's never been a guy that terrible in UFC."

Those stats aren't quite accurate. Silva, a legend in the Pride Fighting Championships where he was middleweight (in Japan at the time, that was the 93 kilogram class, or 204.6-pound weight class) from 2001 to 2007, currently has a 5-7 UFC record, and has won two of his last three fights. He defeated Cung Le and Brian Stann, both via second-round finish, and in between, lost a five-round decision to Rich Franklin.

The bout is between two of the most experienced fighters in the promotion, with the 36-year-old Sonnen having debuted 17 years ago, although it's been 12 years of fighting regularly. Silva, 37, in his 18th year of fighting professionally, first made a name for himself on the Brazilian circuit in a tournament in 1997.
In the Stann fight, one of the best of 2013, Silva came back from multiple first-round knockdowns, and Sonnen admits that was a good showing.

"I thought he looked very good and I think he's a dangerous guy," he said. "I'm not dismissing him. But he pulled the wool over people's eyes in Japan with that fake crap. I'll expose his real competitive history every opportunity I get. I outed him many years ago for those fights in Japan being fake. Time out, that referee's wearing an ear piece, it looks like Earl Hebner and his twin brother (two well known pro wrestling referees). Those matches aren't real. I had a teammates who told me the promoter comes in with $10,000 in cash and tells you how this match will go. After I outed him, I got support from (Gary) Goodridge, (Mark) Coleman and (Don) Frye saying Chael's right."

Fake probably isn't the right word to use on Silva's Pride career. After his first win over Kazushi Sakuraba, at the time a national sports hero, he had the right win at the right time to make a career. The Japanese mentality was that the fans there wanted a Japanese fighter, and preferably Sakuraba or another pro wrestler or famous name, to be the one to beat him on the big stage. The fact none of the chosen Japanese fighters were able to beat him led to his long period of domination.

Silva blew through mostly Japanese competition from 2001 to 2004, including facing Sakuraba two more times. But he also beat Rampage Jackson in two of the greatest fights of the era. His 18-fight undefeated streak, which included one draw and one no contest, ended against Mark Hunt, in a unlimited weight class fight that he gave up 76 pounds in.

"I was a struggling fighter sitting on my couch watching guys pretending to win and it p***ed me off," Sonnen said.

Sonnen, who admitted not being fond of traveling in the first place, had a number of struggles going to Brazil,. It wasn't just a foreign country where people spoke a different language and an entirely different culture, but it was a place where he was one of the most hated athletes alive a few years back when he used anti-Brazilian rhetoric to promote his two fights with Anderson Silva. Wanderlei Silva was playing off that on the show, telling Sonnen he needed to apologize for what he said, as shown in some previews.

"I saw the advertisement," said Sonnen. "It was tweeted to me. I liked it, too. It looked pretty good."
But it was a struggle at times being there.

"There were some challenges that came with that," he said. "We were at a strategic and competitive disadvantage due to me not speaking Portuguese and being able to communicate. That was a reality. That was a struggle. It was like the game `Charades.' You have to act it out. That's what I was doing throughout this whole experience. We got pretty good at our form of sign language."

He noted that despite what had been said previously, on the first day he got on the set with Jon Jones, he talked to him, using football as an analogy, since Jones has two brothers who play in the NFL.

"What would opposing coaches in football do? Do they play pranks? Do they vandalize? Do they harass each other? Or do they do the best job with their teams. He said, `I'm with you.'"

"With Wanderlei, that didn't work. I tried to have that talk many times. It didn't work."

But as far as Sonnen knows, while he's signed to fight Silva, the opposite is still not the case.

"I have no update, but I continue to poke him in the chest with the statement that he hasn't signed," said Sonnen. "I know he hadn't signed the last we had an update.

"My assumption, psychology wise, is if he had signed, he would make that announcement."