LAS VEGAS – The UFC has seen its fair share of rivalries over the years.
Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell. Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz.
Rashad Evansand Rampage Jackson. And, of course, Anderson Silvaand Chael Sonnen.
But Saturday's Silva-Sonnen rematch at UFC 148 and the buildup behind it may have pushed it to the head of the pack in the eyes of Dana White.
The UFC president on Monday told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) the rivalry between Silva, his longtime middleweight champion, and Sonnen, the challenger who took him into the fifth round at UFC 117 nearly two years ago, has taken on a new life in part thanks to Silva believing Sonnen doesn't deserve a rematch.
"If not No. 1, it's up there," White said. "I've never been in a situation where a guy says, 'This guy's such a disrespectful punk, he doesn't deserve this shot – and I'm not gonna fight him.'"
Silva, on Tuesday at a pre-fight news conference for Saturday's pay-per-view, reiterated his stance that he doesn't think Sonnen should get another crack at him, saying a combination of Sonnen's disrespect toward him, his family and his country are part of the reason. But Silva also said his win over Demian Maia in 2010 and Maia's win over Sonnen in 2009 is further proof the two don't belong in the same cage.
But White most certainly doesn't believe that to be the case.
"There's no doubt Anderson doesn't what to give him this rematch. That's a fact," White said. "My philosophy is always, if you don't like it, handle it in (the octagon). You can't say a guy doesn't deserve it because you think he's mean. He definitely deserves the rematch. More than anybody. It's true.
"He's the only guy who's ever come close to beating him in the UFC."
Silva first defended his title against Sonnen at UFC 117 in August 2010. Sonnen dominated the fight until midway through the fifth round, when he was forced to tap to a armbar-triangle choke. An instant rematch was shelved when Sonnen was suspended for a year after testing positive for elevated testosterone-to-epitestosterone levels following the fight. But wins over Brian Stann this past August and
Michael Bispingin January had him back as the top contender.
Silva, since that win over Sonnen, has defended his title twice with knockout wins over
Vitor Belfortand Yushin Okami, the latter coming at UFC 134 in his home country of Brazil this past August.
UFC 148 takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view; prelims air on FX and stream on Facebook.
Silva may have gotten a little more emotionally invested in the rematch on Tuesday when the two needed to be forcibly separated multiple times after one of the more heated face-offs in recent memory – and that wasn't even for the weigh-ins. Silva is nearly a 3-to-1 favorite in the fight.