(Video courtesy of AOL Fanhouse)
Always colorful and entertaining UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen appeared on MMAFighting’s The MMA Hour yesterday and among other topics, gave his thoughts on being public enemy number one in Brazil. According to the outspoken self-professed American Gangster, he decided against travelling to Rio de Janeiro to corner his friend and training partner Yushin Okami against Anderson Silva at UFC 134 when he received more than the usual number of death threats, particularly when he felt that shit got real.
“I became a big distraction. I wanted to go and be part of that for one reason, which was to help Yushin. I could watch the show from my living room, but I wanted to be there and support him, and that was it. Quite frankly, I became a big distraction. It got a little bit out of hand even. The level of death threats got a little bit high. I reached 10 and…10 death threats and I think number seven was actually serious,” he pointed out. “By the looks in his eyes, it looked like he’d stabbed somebody before, so.. The final call came down to… Yushin had a sponsor who said, ‘Look, we’d rather he didn’t come. The feeling on the ground here in Brazil is this could actually turn into a true incident, so that was it. If a sponsor makes a request, you follow through with it. And it wasn’t my show. It wasn’t my night and I didn’t want to take any attention off Yushin. I truly believed he was going to win the championship and the last thing I wanted to do was take away from that.”
Although he says that he was surprised with the reaction his inflammatory comments garnered him from the fans in Rio even though he wasn’t fighting on the card, Sonnen says he was “flattered” that they cared so much even if their care came in the form of vitriol and death threats targeting him.
“In Brazil they have two newspapers. Two newspapers kind of cover the whole country and one of those newspapers had me on the front page and I wasn’t even on the card. I was a little bit surprised that I had gotten so inundated with it. At the same time I was flattered. It just wasn’t my night. I wasn’t a part of this. I was no more than a fan and that’s all I ever wanted to be. I wanted to go out, be a fan, pat Yushin on the back, warm him up and support him that way — hold the water bucket for him.”
In a strange twist, the onetime Republican senate hopeful blasted American fans for their lack of loyalty to their own and praised Brazilian fans for sticking by their countrymen.
“I admire [their passion]. I like that they get like that. I’ll tell you what I mean, each country you fight in is different. In Japan, the crowd is silent. They’re silent, not because they’re not into the matches — there’s 40,000 strong at some of these events. It’s a sign of respect to be quiet and let the competition and the sport itself take place in front of you. In Brazil it’s totally different, but I like it. In Brazil they do it right. They support their fellow countrymen,” Sonnen explained. “In North America, we don’t support our countrymen. I have people that are American who want to see me lose to Anderson and that’s okay, but it’s a little odd. In no other country would you see people turn against their own countrymen. I’ll give you a great example and I don’t know if you were at this fight or not, but Matt Hughes fought Royce Gracie and that crowd booed…it took place in Los Angeles…they booed Matt Hughes so loud and they cheered Royce with all of their might. In no other country would you cheer against your own man, except North America. I love the American crowd, but it does alway confuse me. I love the Brazilian fans for backing their own. It shouldn’t matter what people say, if a countryman is fighting a fellow countryman, you support your guy. Brazil does it right. North American fans need to take a page out of their book.”
I’m surprised he conceded that Brazilians have books, or maybe when he said “book” he was inferring that the country only has one.