The third season of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil was a bit of a mess. Filmed and aired in 2014, the show centered around the rivalry between coaches Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen, and it didn't take long for things to spiral out of control. The two coaches infamously brawled midway through the season, then both were suspended by the Nevada Athletic Commission once filming ended, as Silva fled a random drug test and Sonnen failed two tests of his own.
Still, the show introduced three notable Brazilian prospects to the Octagon -- Warlley Alves, Antonio Carlos Junior, and Vitor Miranda, whose combined UFC record is 9-3 -- so even though Sonnen and Silva never fought, TUF Brazil 3 ended up being a worthwhile endeavor. And according to Sonnen, it nearly crashed and burned before it began.
"I'll tell you this, and you'll think less of me," Sonnen said Monday on The MMA Hour. "You'll go, ‘well, you're a dick for doing that.' I get that I'm a dick for doing it, but I was in a dust-up with Wanderlei.
"We were in Brazil, and the first day of the filming of The Ultimate Fighter, he quit. He quit the whole show. He goes, ‘I'm done and I'm leaving.' And that was real. They didn't show very much of it, but it was a mess. We couldn't leave the set. We had to get Wanderlei back, but we had Dana (White) on the phone. It was an absolute mess. We had Vitor (Belfort) on the phone, wondering, hey, if this guy really walks, will you get on a plane? It was that [bad]. We thought the show was over."
The incident Sonnen is referencing happened in the second episode of the season. Footage showed Silva demanding an apology from Sonnen for all of the past slights the American had said about Brazil, and when Sonnen refused, Silva announced his intentions to leave the show.
Silva eventually returned, but Sonnen said on Monday that there was more to the Brazilian's decision than what the cameras showed.
"So, I'm trying to be real with him," Sonnen said. "I'm trying to be as real as I can, because this whole thing is about to blow up. I go, ‘Wanderlei, here's the script, okay? I'm the bad guy. I insulted this entire nation. You wear the white hat. You get to come in and be the good guy. When you're bullying me, when you're physically starting fights with me, when you're quitting and walking off set and leaving this whole thing hanging, you're now making me vulnerable. If I'm vulnerable, then I become the good guy. I don't want to be the good guy. But you do, so enjoy being the good guy. I'll keep being the bad guy. But stay with me on this, because you're ruining everything.'
"And [Silva] goes on and on about sportsmanship and honor. It's like, dude, this isn't little league baseball, man. You could take all those great little sayings that your coach told you or you got in a fortune cookie and you can shove them up your ass when I'm around, because I don't care about any of them. This is a fistfight in a steel cage. There's nothing about honor and sportsmanship. This is about an applause and a paycheck. That's what it is. So I'm explaining this thing to him, and he's telling me how to do it. ‘You've got to do this and you've got to do that.' I just stop and I go: ‘Wanderlei, stop. Between us, just stop. I am the highest paid fighter in the history of the sport. I'm the biggest draw in the history of this sport. Do you really think you should be giving me advice, or should you be taking it? Should you be copying me?'
"He just tore right into me," Sonnen continued. "This is the dick part. So, I'm on my phone. I've got my phone, I bank with Bank of America, I've got a mobile app. I log into my Bank of America app and I just show it to him. And I said, ‘do you really think that you should be giving me advice, or should you just come along for the ride and let me take it from here?'
"And his whole expression, he didn't say it but he was like, alright, let's go do the show. And that's actually where that ended. I know that makes me a prick, but that's what changed him right there, is I freaking showed him, ‘hey, I know what I'm doing here. You do your thing and let me carry us.'"
Silva ultimately stayed on to coach his team, though the tension between the Sonnen and Silva escalated to the point that a melee broke out after a weigh-in midway through the season -- a melee which resulted in one of Silva's assistant coaches being yanked off the show for repeatedly punching Sonnen in the back of the head.
Neither Sonnen and Silva have fought professionally since, due to their subsequent drug suspensions, although it seems like that may change soon. Silva recently signed a deal with Bellator and has expressed interest in fighting for former Pride FC boss Nobuyuki Sakakibara under the Rizin Fighting Federation banner, while Sonnen is slated to be freed from suspension in July and listed five different opponents on Monday that could potentially pique his interest for a UFC comeback.
Not surprisingly, the list included Silva. And if Sonnen does choose to return, he promised to bring his loquacious promoting talents with him.
"The bottom line is that I'll come and I'll tell these guys how to do it, and I'll have, from reporters to fans to other fighters, come and want to argue with me," Sonnen said. "They'll want to tell me the way to do it. It's like, guys, when I make a statement, I'm not asking you how it should be done. I'm teaching class. This is how you do it. When you sell as many tickets, t-shirts, or pay-per-views as I did, go ahead and share your opinion with me and I'll be happy to hear it. But until then, shut your mouth and learn."