Scheduling conflicts force fight out of planned Rio de Janeiro soccer stadium show
UFC president Dana White made the announcement Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro with middleweight champion Silva and top contender Sonnen on each side of him. The UFC 147 card is still scheduled be held June 23 in Rio, but it will not take place at the Estadio Olimpico and Engenhao as was announced last month.
White said the UFC 147 card will be headlined by a rematch between Brazilian legends Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva, who currently are coaching opposite each other on the first edition of "The Ultimate Fighter Brazil" – though he said a venue has not yet been secured for that card. White also said that card will feature the middleweight and featherweight finals from TUF Brazil, a heavyweight fight between Fabricio Werdum and Mike Russow – and possibly even a title defense for featherweight champion Jose Aldo, who was expected to headline a UFC 149 card in Calgary on July 21.
The UFC was forced to move the Silva-Sonnen fight Stateside, to an already scheduled UFC 148 show at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, when a United Nations conference in Rio the same week as UFC 147 made securing hotel rooms and security a logistical issue.
"We've done a couple successful events here in Rio, and there were many things that caused this fight to fall apart here," White said. "This is going to be one of the biggest sporting events of the year. People from all over the world want to see this event. If we're going to do it here in Brazil, it needs to be in a soccer stadium. Las Vegas is a destination where people from all over the world will come in to watch this fight. If we couldn't pull it off here in a soccer stadium, Las Vegas was the only other option. (Brazil) was our first choice, this is where we wanted it to happen, this is obviously where Anderson wanted it to happen, and Chael was fine coming down here to Rio."
White said Silva was disappointed about not being able to fight in his home country.
"Yeah, he was very upset about not fighting in Brazil," White said. "It took a lot of talking and I finally convinced Anderson to take this fight in Las Vegas.
Silva said even though he won't be fighting in Brazil, nothing will change.
"I'm a UFC athlete, and I have fans all over the world," Silva said. "I'll be doing my job for my fans. Nothing will really change. Just unfortunately the fight will not be in Brazil. But I will do my job, as always, and I will try to continue to be the holder of the belt."
Even Sonnen, who has been Public Enemy No. 1 to the Brazilian fans, said he was disappointed that he won't get a second crack at Silva in his home country.
"It was disappointing, especially the thought of coming to a stadium," Sonnen said. "In Toronto, they did 55,000 fans (for UFC 129) and I was looking forward to breaking that record. This is the biggest fight in the history of combat. We're going to the fight capital of the world. My plan was to come here, take your (fans') money, take my new belt and come back to America. But instead I'm going to have to wait."
The planned venue for the soccer stadium show, Estadio Olimpico, holds more than 45,000 fans for soccer matches, but the UFC was expecting to eclipse its attendance record of 55,000 set last year at UFC 129 in Toronto. White said he expected 80,000 fans for the event. The UFC settled on Rio for the event after running into roadblocks in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, which had noise ordinance issues near the stadium that would have been an issue with the timing of the event. But at that time, the UFC didn't anticipate further issues complicating the event in Rio, as well.