Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen UFC Title Rematch Now Likely for Rio Soccer Stadium

Chael Sonnen (James Law/HeavyMMA)

Venue could hold 80,000 fans for middleweight title fight

After months of speculation, the Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen rematch got another step closer on Wednesday.

UFC president Dana White, speaking at a news conference in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to announce the promotion’s next three shows in that country, said the fight that could become the biggest in UFC history is likely to take place this summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, not Sao Paulo, as had been targeted. And as has been the company’s hope, White said the fight likely will take place in a soccer stadium – in front of as many as 80,000 fans.

Silva-Sonnen II would be the main event of a pay-per-view card, likely UFC 147 in June, though a precise date hasn’t been locked up. Also expected for the card is a co-main event rematch between legendary Brazilians Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva, who currently are coaching opposite each other on the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil.”

The UFC has held two events in Rio over the last seven months, returning to Brazil for the first time since 1998 for UFC 134 last August, then following that event up with UFC 142 in January. Looking to branch out to other parts of the country, the UFC targeted Sao Paulo, the largest city in South America, for the highly anticipated Silva-Sonnen rematch. But because of the time difference between Brazil and the United States, local noise ordinance issues reportedly arose – setting up a roadblock for an outdoor show in Sao Paulo that apparently was too great to overcome.

But the promotion’s desire to hold the show outside in a Brazilian soccer stadium remained. White’s contention that the card will take place in front of 80,000 fans could mean the event is targeted for the Estadio de Maracana, but that stadium currently is undergoing reconstruction in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. That stadium is the largest in Brazil.

Rio’s other soccer stadium is the Estadio Olimpico, which holds roughly 46,000 fans and is only five years old. Like Maracana, the stadium will be used during the Olympics, which Rio hosts in 2016. Though holding the fight there would fall well short of the 80,000 mark that would be potential with a card at Maracana, and short of the UFC’s record 55,000 in Toronto last year, it still would be a watershed moment in UFC history.

UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta on Wednesday told that the event has not yet been locked down, but it’s “close.”

Silva and Sonnen first fought at UFC 117 in August 2010. Sonnen spent more than four rounds dominating the Brazilian champion, but in the fifth round Silva caught Sonnen in an armbar-triangle combination, forcing the challenger to tap just minutes short of an upset title victory. Sonnen, though, tested positive for performance enhancing drugs following the fight and was suspended by the California State Athletic Commission – and Silva and his camp spoke of the champ having a rib injury during camp, rendering him unable to compete at his normal levels.

Sonnen, perhaps the brashest talker in the sport, has been saying for months that he doesn’t believe the rematch ever will happen, contending that Silva is ducking him and doesn’t want the fight. But he recently said he’s been told the fight will happen – though he hasn’t signed a contract yet – and that the UFC’s camera crews are scheduled to be at his house this week to film segments for a “UFC Countdown” show that would air the week before the fight.