Alejandro A. Alvarez / Philadelphia Daily News
Friday, Aug. 6, 2010 | 10:46 a.m.
OAKLAND, Calif. — Chael Sonnen has hurled just about every insult possible toward Anderson Silva, who he fights for the UFC middleweight title Saturday.
But in addition to insulting the defending champion, Sonnen may have done him a favor.
Sonnen's knack for promoting almost has overshadowed the memory of Silva's last fight — a bizarre performance against Demian Maia, in which he hid behind the referee and basically refused to fight for much of the bout.
One man who apparently hasn't forgotten that night, however, is UFC president Dana White.
Although White doesn't expect a repeat performance from Silva this weekend, White did say he would make good on his threat to cut the middleweight champion from the organization if it happens again.
"If he ever does that again, yes, I will cut him," White said. "I don't ever want to see anybody act like he did in Abu Dhabi.
"I'll never forget that night. It had me upset for a long time."
The storyline of UFC 117 has become whether Sonnen can back up his talk, but the fact that arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world is on the chopping block shouldn't be overlooked.
To this day, Silva (26-4) refuses to apologize for any performance he's given in a UFC octagon.
He says he understands it's impossible to please everyone and points to the fact he's won 11 straight fights since joining the organization in 2006.
"At the end of the day, I won," said Silva, when asked about his fight against Maia. "I won right?"
Silva's manager, Ed Soares, added his own sort of explanation for what fans have seen in his fighter's recent bouts.
Nowhere in mixed martial arts does it say a fighter has to take unnecessary risks. For Silva, returning to his family unharmed is a major priority when it comes to his fights.
"The most important thing to him is to leave the ring the same way he came in and go back to his family unmarked," Soares said. "Whether he wins or loses, that's the most important thing."
Ironically, the biggest anti-Silva man out there has actually had his back in the matter.
According to Sonnen, as long as Silva is winning he's doing his job.
Dancing around the octagon and playing peek-a-boo behind the referee didn't stop Silva from dominating the scorecards that night.
"I don't really know how you guys can say that," said Sonnen, responding to criticisms on Silva. "The guy went out there and won his fights. To pick on a guy for that is odd. I think those are fair performances.
"Sometimes those shots land and he looks great. Other times, time runs out and he doesn't finish his mark. I don't think he should be faulted for it."
White certainly doesn't see it that way and, even now, still becomes animated when talking about the Abu Dhabi fight.
He admits that part of his reaction might be based on the high expectations he has of Silva — White has been calling the Brazilian fighter the best in the world for years.
But in the end, even that acknowledgment from White may not be able to save Silva's place in the UFC if he turns Saturday into a another dance-off.
"Does anybody here not agree that what happened in Abu Dhabi was insane?," White asked. "It would be like (Michael) Jordan just going nuts in the middle of a game; screaming at people and slapping the floor.
"Imagine if you saw that in a basketball game. What's the difference in a fight? People don't pay to see that. People pay to see the best fighter in the world go in there and do what he does."