After all the verbal and, at times, physical confrontations between Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen, their highly anticipated grudge match won’t be happening on July 5 at UFC 175. Silva apparently didn’t file for a license to fight in the state of Nevada and also reportedly failed to take a random drug test. Because of those licensing issues, the UFC was forced to find a replacement opponent.
The organization issued a statement saying that middleweight contender Vitor Belfort had accepted the fight against Sonnen, subject to receiving a license to compete from the Nevada Athletic Commission. He’s scheduled to appear before the commission on June 17.
The last few months have been a roller-coaster ride for Belfort. He’d been initially slated to get a middleweight title shot at UFC 173 against Chris Weidman, however Belfort was pulled from that event after NSAC imposed an outright ban on testosterone replacement therapy. Lyoto Machida took his place and will face Weidman in the main event of UFC 175. The fight was pushed back because of a knee injury to the champion.
The No. 2 ranked Belfort has been on a major roll since his loss to light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in their title clash at UFC 152. Belfort has recorded three-straight highlight-reel stoppages of Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson. His last Octagon appearance was a first-round stoppage of “Hendo” at Fight Night 32 in Brazil as Belfort became the first man to stop the iron-chinned veteran via strikes.
Sonnen looks like a psychic after maintaining for the past several months that the matchup with “The Axe Murderer” wouldn’t end up materializing. The two had been the featured coaches on Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. The matchup was originally targeted for UFC 173, then pushed back a week as the headliner of the TUF Brazil 3 Finale before being set for UFC 175.
UFC President Dana White maintained the delay was because of an injury suffered by Silva during a melee that occurred during the taping of the show in Brazil. Now it’s not happening at all even after they appeared last week at a press conference to promote the event. Not surprisingly, the bitter rivals were involved in a heated confrontation during their stare down.
“The American Gangster” will be looking to rebound against the dangerous Belfort after being finished in the first round by former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans at UFC 167. Sonnen has dropped three of his last four fights with that lone victory a submission triumph over Mauricio Rua.
While the absence of Silva is disappointing, Belfort is an outstanding replacement for one of the more stacked cards of the year. Belfort and Sonnen have also had their own war of words over the years and will now get the chance to settle their own feud in Las Vegas. The winner of the Belfort-Sonnen clash will earn a shot at the middleweight title.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports.