When the third Brazilian season of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil was announced with Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen, there were expectations of a season filled with nationalistic conflict.
The season featured one of Brazil's fighting heroes facing off with the American who made his name in being the anti-Brazilian villain in his prior matches with Anderson Silva.
But the reaction to the coaches in Brazil, ended up nothing like one would have expected. While Team Silva got the better of the early fights, it is Sonnen's team that clearly came across as more sympathetic if you weren't watching with Brazilian eyes.
Or, apparently, even if you were.
The reaction in Brazil, where as many as 12 million viewers have seen the show in certain weeks on Globo, even though it doesn't air until after 11 p.m., and often after midnight on Sunday nights, has been the big surprise. It also airs on Fight Pass on Sundays in the rest of the world.
After the episode that aired on April 12, where Silva took a swing at Sonnen, and ended up being taken down. While the two were on the ground with Sonnen on top, one of Silva's assistant coaches, Andre Dida, landed several punches to the back of Sonnen's head.
A major Brazilian sports poll showed that 70 percent of Brazilians suddenly were behind Sonnen in their July 5 fight in Las Vegas.
The belief is that Silva still had support of the hardcore MMA fan base, particularly those who were aware of him during his Pride heyday. But outside of that group who loved Silva's wide open and aggressive fighting style, he had limited support of the general public, or of casual fans.
The result was Silva doing a Q&A in Brazil, which airs with subtitles on Fight Pass, acknowledging the popularity shift, but blaming it largely on the editing process.
"They edited a lot of things, and unfortunately, the production decided to paint me as the villain," said Silva. "But that is not right, because he said horrible things about us, and disrespected me at every moment during filming. This good guy you're watching on television is not how things are for real. He said and did a lot of things that aren't being shown."
"What was shown on the show is not everything that happened," said Silva. "Behind what happened there is the motives and the reason why I was mad that day. Beside the absurd (things) that he has said about all of us, he had been provoking me and disrespecting me. Right on the first episode, he called me stupid. Not at any moment did I go down to his level."
Americans may find it different as Silva used profanity on Sonnen on several occasions during the show, not bleeped out since it's produced in Portuguese. Silva felt that since English is not his language, it didn't constitute to him the way an American would view it.
"I called him a motherf***er, but I don't speak English," he said. "I didn't really know what it means and I don't consider it a cuss word.
During the filming of the show, Silva kept trying to get Sonnen to apologize to Brazil for things he had said in the past, and Sonnen had said he couldn't do that. Silva's behavior ranged from giving Sonnen the silent treatment, to things that could have come off as physical threats, leading to shoving matches. Sonnen noted that on occasions, Silva would come up to him and put his mouthpiece in.
Silva didn't directly answer rumors that this may be his last fight.
"Only God knows," he said, but then said that fans would be told after the fight..
"I am coming off of good performances in my last three fights. In all three fights i won four bonuses. I got three fight of the night bonuses and in my last fight (a fight of the year candidate where knocked out Brian Stann), I got knockout of the night," he said. "I am still able to perform well and give the public a reason to cheer." he said.
Some have suggested that the poll was more a short-term reaction and that if the fight was taking place in Brazil, once the fight started, the fans would have gotten behind the man of their own nationality. However, the feeling is also that, unlike if this happened a few months ago, people would not be upset if Sonnen won.
Silva said he didn't want to tell people how to react, but wanted to say the portrayal was unfair.
"If you learned about all he has said and done, and you still cheer for him, you'll have my respect. I will just tell you not to lose your money because I will win this fight."