Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013 | 12:32 a.m.
Chael Sonnen unwrapped his arms from around one Brazilian’s neck only to find an army of compatriots willing to risk their own against him.
Sonnen called out Wanderlei Silva while inside the TD Garden octagon after submitting Mauricio “Shogun” Rua with a guillotine choke at 4:47 of the first round in the UFC Fight Night 26 main event. By the time he reached the broadcasting booth to film post-fight analysis for Fox Sports 1, Vitor Belfort had reached out to UFC President Dana White asking to fight Sonnen.
When the post-fight press conference started nearly an hour after the card was completed, Lyoto Machida had also tossed his name into the sudden Sonnen sweepstakes.
“That whole country wants to fight him,” White laughed.
Options abound for the bellicose wrestler after he notched his first victory in a year and a half Saturday night. The only certainty seems to be that Sonnen will renew his long-running rivalry with the world’s fifth-largest nation, which he’s often mocked as uncivilized in the past.
It’s not even evident which weight class Sonnen will fight in next as he made his second straight appearance at light heavyweight against Rua with plans to drop back down to middleweight, where he was a two-time top contender, afterward.
But Silva, Belfort and Machida could all conceivably fight in either the 185- or 205-pound divisions. As far as what bout piques Sonnen’s interest the most, well, there’s no straight answer.
“I would beat up Vitor on the way to the ring to kick Wanderlei’s ass and I’ll take on that third guy whose name I’ve already forgotten in the parking lot on the way to my after party,” Sonnen declared. “I will take all three.”
If Sonnen fights as well as he did in Fox Sports 1’s debut event, he might not be that large of an underdog in the illogical scenario. The 36-year-old Sonnen put away Rua, 31, faster than anyone ever had in the UFC.
Sonnen took down the former light heavyweight champion within the first five seconds and smothered him for the vast majority of the round. When he saw an opening on Shogun’s neck, Sonnen pulled guard and cranked with all he had to finish before the buzzer.
It marked Sonnen’s second submission victory in the octagon first win against someone who’s held a UFC belt.
“That’s huge what he did tonight,” White said. “I don’t think anyone saw that coming.”
A dejected Rua couldn’t find the words to explain what went wrong. His fellow countrymen were speaking instead, jockeying for position to land the Sonnen assignment.
Belfort was an interesting lobbyist considering he had begged for a title shot against Chris Weidman after UFC 162 and vowed he would accept nothing less. Based on White’s reaction to Belfort, he might be a long shot for Sonnen.
“Every time there’s a fight, Vitor wants to fight that guy,” White shook his head. “I don’t even know what to say.”
White sounded more receptive to the idea of giving Silva to Sonnen, who compared “The Axe Murderer” to a pile of “crap” immediately after beating Shogun. It’s a fight Sonnen has sought for years, White reasoned, so it might as well happen now.
Sonnen had his doubts on if the bout could happen because of Silva’s history.
“Wanderlei insists that fight has never been offered,” Sonnen said. “That’s been a big marquee fight for years. This company puts on big marquee fights. To believe that he hasn’t been offered that fight is ridiculous and it pisses me off. All I need is for him to say he doesn’t want to do it and then I’m out. I’m not a bully and I’m not going to pick on him. But if he says he does want me to do it, he’s going to continue to get me to respond.”
Regardless of whom it’s against, Sonnen would like to fight again before the end of the year and mentioned UFC 168 on Dec. 28 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena as one possibility. That card, of course, is headlined by old Sonnen foil Anderson Silva’s rematch against Weidman.
Oh, and while everyone is speaking up with what opponents they want, that’s one Sonnen would be interested in facing. He said he’d like to get a third opportunity against Anderson Silva before his career was over.
With all the Brazilians asking for him, Sonnen feels like he has the right to flip the trend in one case.
“This is America,” Sonnen said. “You wont get anything you don’t ask for and there are certain guys I want to fight. And if I can have the smallest hand in my own career, I think it’s the smart thing to do.”