Bellator are headed back to pay-per-view for only the second time in their history with Chael Sonnen Vs Wanderlei Silva on-board as the main event of the evening.
The fight has been officially announced for Bellator 180 and will take place on June 24th at Madison Square Garden in New York City
“We always said that when we come to New York, we’ll bring the biggest and the best fight card we’ve ever had in the history of this company,” Bellator CEO Scott Coker told the Associated Press. “We’re putting it together, and our roster is robust enough that we feel like it’s time to get into the pay-per-view business, so here we go.”
Leading with Sonnen Vs Silva gives Bellator the opportunity to revisit a fight with a rich history that the UFC tried, but ultimately failed to bring to the cage back in 2014.
A rivalry between the two stars had been brewing for several years prior to that after Sonnen made disparaging remarks about Brazil in the lead-up to a fight with the middleweight champion at the time, Anderson Silva, and then refused to bow down to Wanderlei Silva’s demands that he apologize.
As things grew more heated between them the UFC paired the two up to coach The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil Season 3, and sparks flew on-set as Silva’s temper reached boiling point and he engaged in a brief scuffle with Sonnen during filming, though Sonnen ducked his punch and took him down before they were separated.
That was as close to a fight between the two as the UFC ever got as several attempts to put the fight together fell through.
Things really went south after an attempt to schedule the fight for UFC 175 on July 5th crashed and burned when Silva fled a random drug test, leading to a lifetime ban from the sport, though that would later be overturned in 2015.
Sonnen skewered Silva in the media when the news first broke, but just weeks later it emerged that he had failed a drug test, and despite his initial protestations, a second test then revealed the presence of steroids, Human Growth Hormone (HGH), EPO and hCG, at which point he was slapped with a two-year suspension and retired from the sport.
Since then both fighters have been released from the UFC and subsequently signed for Bellator after their suspensions ended.
Despite also signing for Rizin, Silva still hasn’t returned to action yet, with an announced tournament fight with Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic in the Japanese promotion late last year falling through.
That means that ‘The Axe Murderer’ hasn’t fought since a thrilling brawl with Brian Stann in the UFC back in March of 2013, a fight he won by knockout.
As for Sonnen, he finally returned to action after over three years on the sidelines at Bellator 170 in January in what proved to be a disappointing outing against Tito Ortiz, being tapped out by a rear-naked choke in just 2.03mins.
With that in mind it’s not exactly the ideal timing for this fight, but nonetheless there has been enough interest in this long-awaited grudge match over the years that it should still draw people’s attention.
However, given Silva’s injury problems in recent years and both fighters drug test issues the biggest challenge will be actually ensuring that the fight goes ahead as planned.