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When Junior Dos Santos creamed Cain Velasquez to win the UFC Heavyweight belt, it codified something everyone knew - from top (Dos Santos) to bottom (Jose Aldo), Brazilians are a dominant force in the UFC and MMA.
But while UFC134 in Rio showed the world that Brazilians love MMA and their fighters, a simple fact remains - soccer is the No. 1 sport in Brazil. By far. And American middleweight contender Chael Sonnen has shown he's well aware of this in his effort to get middleweight champ Anderson Silva back into the ring. He showed as such in a recent video he put out, wearing a shirt from the famed Brazilian soccer club Palmeirias.
The story behind the video is this: Silva is sponsored by the soccer club Corinthians, the reigning Brazilian League champions. For this, Silva receives approximately $250,000 per year. Silva wore a Corinthians jersey into the ring with him in Rio prior to his obliteration of Yushin Okami.
This would seem a simple enough situation. One could imagine Jon Jones entering the ring wearing a Dallas Cowboys' jersey without a risk of destroying his fan base. But this is Brazil. And while Corinthians has a large fan base, they are also easily one of the most hated teams in Brazil. So while the Spider has a good fan base in Brazil, he has also become a hated figure amongst those that despise Corinthians, especially amongst fans of Corinthians' main rival, Palmeiras.
Sonnen - who has proven to be one of the smartest trash-talkers in all of sports - quickly glommed on to this and began talking up Palmeiras. The management at Palmeiras jumped into the fray, sending Sonnen some team jerseys and other team paraphernalia. This led to the video in which Sonnen - who obviously did his homework - promised a victory over Silva and that he'd dedicate the win to Palmeiras and hand the belt to recently retired goalkeeper Marcos - a Palmeiras legend.
This is by no means a desperate move by Sonnen. Should he get the chance to fight Silva again - a victory over Mark Munoz on Jan. 28 will give him that opportunity - he could walk into the ring with Brazilian supporters, even if the fight were held in Brazil. Such is the power of soccer in Brazil. A brash, trash-talking American could walk into the ring in Brazil against a Brazilian legend and have a fan base.
This should be a teaching moment for Brazilian fighters and fight teams - being supported by a soccer team, regardless of your support for them, should be avoided. Brazilian fighters such as Shogun Rua have avoided connection with soccer clubs and enjoy unanimous support amongst Brazilians. Not so with Silva. For a fighter with the ability and personality of Silva - who already has national sponsorships from non-sporting entities such as Burger King - the support from Corinthians will likely have a cost of much more than $250k.
Anderson Silva announces new injury
UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, who already has been on the shelf due to a shoulder injury, told the Brazilian TV Show "Good Morning Brazil" that he is now dealing with a back injury, as well.
"I'm not sure when I'll come back," said Silva. "I have the shoulder injury, and another injury arose recently in my lower back, so I'm dealing with that now."
While the UFC has examined Silva and seen he has bursitis in his shoulder, the lower back injury has yet to be confirmed by doctors. Dan Henderson, who along with teammate Chael Sonnen are angling for rematches with the Spider, stated he's not convinced the shoulder injury is real.
"All the 'injuries' that keep Anderson from a rematch with me or Chael will heal real fast if they offer Bisping to him," said Henderson.