What is a Rivalry? What defines a Rival? According to Google its “A person competing with another for the same objective or for superiority in the same field of activity”. On July 7th at UFC 148, Chael Sonnen and Anderson Silva will meet for the 2nd time for the 185 pound title. You can guarantee that both men will be competing for superiority and the same objective; to walk out champion. But when you look at the definition of what a ‘Rival’ is, can you truly consider it a Rivalry?
Anderson Silva hasn’t been beaten since 2004 when he was submitted by Ryo Chonan (The DQ to Okami doesn’t count). Unlike other fighters who made their names overseas and struggled to find success in the premier league of MMA, Anderson Silva has managed to cement his legacy as the closest thing to Muhammad Ali the sport has seen. He’s gone 14-0 during his run in the UFC and has dominated every single man put in front of him, except Chael Sonnen.
Speaking of… Chael Sonnen is a bad, bad man. He’s charismatic, witty, and easily the most entertaining man in the sport. He also has 11 losses with 8 of them coming via submission. Despite the losses you can be assured that he will bring the fight to his opponent, each and every time. He brought the fight to Paulo Filho when Filho was still considered good and probably would have coasted to a win had he not been caught in an armbar just as the 2nd round was ending. Sonnen has also been the only man to bring his fight to Anderson. By showing absolutely zero respect for the most feared man in the sport, Chael was less than 2 minutes away from doing the unthinkable and taking Silva’s belt before being caught in a triangle.
The world of sports has been full of great rivalries: Celtics vs. Lakers, Pistons vs. Bulls, Ali and Frazier, Yankees vs. Sox, and even Tito vs. Forrest (wait I did say great didn’t I?) …those are rivalries. When you’re competing against someone you’re looking to take something from them, a title, a belt, a possession. To be a true rivalry there has to be a give and take. Chael Sonnen hasn’t taken anything from Anderson Silva, yet. He’s disrespected his country, his wife, repeatedly called him out, but he hasn’t walked away with something that belongs to Silva.
Anderson Silva has a cemented legacy. Since 2006 he has been the superior fighter in the UFC. Win or lose, Anderson will be considered an all time great. This is not the case for Chael P. This Saturday night, Chael Sonnen isn’t just fighting for the hope of setting up a rubber match, he isn’t just fighting for a chance to walk the talk; he’s fighting to be superior. Chael Sonnen is fighting for a legacy, as well as, a rivalry.