"We all understand how these things go. The Ultimate Fighter has been around since 2004 or 2005. Nothing like this has ever happened. You have coaches pushing each other. But it's always verbal, and everyone understands the deal. But I don't even share that philosophy, of even letting it get verbal. I'm there to coach, and I've got the gym certain hours. I'm not into pranks or any of that stuff.
"No, I never would've believed it would turn physical."
Chael Sonnen is telling me about the infamous brawl between he and fellow TUF Brazil coach Wanderlei Silva. It has been billed as a watershed moment for the season, at least in hype videos, and it is now available for the world to see on Fight Pass.
Much has been made of this moment. In hindsight, it seems easy to see that Sonnen and Silva would come to blows before they stepped in the Octagon. The pair have a heated rivalry dating back several years, with Sonnen goading Silva and Silva becoming increasingly unhinged.
When it comes to The Ultimate Fighter, things are different. For Sonnen, anyway.
Fans were surprised the last time Sonnen coached the show. The brash, trash-talking version of Sonnen was replaced by a reflective and humble man who just wanted to coach the youngsters on his team. It added nuance to Sonnen's character and made him an even bigger star.
The same Sonnen showed up for his second stint coaching the show. He just wanted to coach, he says, and planned to leave the histrionics outside. Whatever bad blood existed between he and Silva would have to wait.
And so he went about attempting to remain professional and courteous. It did not work.
"Can't we just talk? I want to say hello or good morning," Sonnen tells Silva during the latest episode.
"I don't want to like you. I hate you," Silva responds.
"But I don't know the date," Sonnen says. "Can you just tell me the date?"
He is referring to the actual UFC fight between the two. As of this writing, it is not set in stone. UFC officials insisted it was a done deal for May 31 in Brazil, only for it to not be such a done deal after all. And then it was scheduled for July, but Sonnen tells Bleacher Report he's not even sure it'll happen. At all.
"Now? Now?," Silva responds. His face is turning various shades of bright red and deep purple. A vein is visible on his temple.
"Come on. I'm just talking to you," Sonnen says. "I'm just asking you."
Silva fakes a slap at Sonnen's head.
"Wanderlei, stop. Just stop. Please stop," Sonnen says. "I can't let you get close."
Silva does get close, of course, and the rest is history.
It may appear, at first glance, to be the sort of pro-wrestling theatrics Sonnen is fond of. Silva's antics appear somewhat staged. The Brazilian producers of the show had cameras where they needed them. Even Andre Dida's punches to the back of Sonnen's head appear half-hearted, like a physical version of a wink and a nod.
But if Sonnen was aware of any such plan for a ruckus, he is a master actor who's on par with the finest Hollywood has ever produced. Those close to him say he was completely unaware of any such plan and that his reactions were legitimate. It appears they are telling the truth.
Sonnen says he doesn't remember any details. "I can't remember any fight I've ever been in. Silva, (Jon) Jones, anything. This is the same thing," he says. "In my head, I never threw any punches. In my head, I did the double-leg and then held him down. But I have some of my guys who told me I did throw punches at him."
It has been months since The Ultimate Fighter concluded filming. Sonnen is back in America. He is training, preparing for a fight with Silva that may never happen. He is at peace with the idea of never (officially) fighting Silva and has turned his Twitter attention once more to Rich Franklin.
If it never happens, Sonnen will be OK. He's already fought Silva once, anyway, and that one served as a quick preview of what would likely happen in a real fight: Sonnen with the double-leg and Silva on his back.
"My favorite part was that he proclaimed victory after the fight. My favorite part was the new Brazilian scoring system that he implemented on the spot, which gave him the win," Sonnen says with a laugh.
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