Just days after a news conference promoting a July 5 fight between Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva piqued interest in the long-running rivalry, Silva has been pulled from the Ultimate Fighting Championship event.
Sonnen instead will face Vitor Belfort on the UFC 175 card at Mandalay Bay.
Silva sat on a dais and faced verbal abuse from Sonnen for more than 30 minutes Friday as part of a media event to promote the bout and nearly came to blows afterward. The two have traded barbs for the better part of two years and came to blows on the set of the Brazilian version of “The Ultimate Fighter,” during which they served as opposing coaches.
Now the fight is off.
According to numerous reports and a statement from Sonnen during “UFC Tonight” on Fox Sports 1 on Wednesday night, Silva refused to take a drug test last weekend when requested by the Nevada Athletic Commission.
“Wanderlei has operated his entire career under the shadow of suspicion that he was using performance-enhancing drugs,” Sonnen said on the show. “However, he has never failed a drug test, so we don’t speculate on those types of things. That clean record came to a screeching halt on Saturday night.
“He refused to take the test, and as you know, a refusal is equal in the eyes of the commission to a failure. He ran from the test. I don’t mean that figuratively. I mean, they came to his gym and he literally ran. He goes out a side door, they come after him saying his name.”
The UFC issued a statement confirming Silva had been removed from the bout.
“Former UFC champion Vitor Belfort has accepted the fight with Sonnen, subject to Belfort receiving a license to compete from the Nevada Athletic Commission,” the statement read in part.
Belfort applied for a license in the state last week. He will appear in front of the NAC on June 17 for a review of his application.
He pulled out of a scheduled middleweight title fight with Chris Weidman in February on the same day the NAC voted unanimously to ban therapeutic-use exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy, a controversial treatment that Belfort and several other fighters had been legally undergoing.
Among the issues discussed during his application hearing is likely to be an out-of-competition test that the NAC administered to Belfort shortly before the February ruling. Belfort has refused to discuss the results of that test, calling them irrelevant.
Sonnen, who also has competed with a therapeutic-use exemption for testosterone replacement therapy in the past, will fight Belfort at light heavyweight.
UFC 175 includes two title fights. Weidman will defend the middleweight belt against Lyoto Machida in the main event, and women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey will fight Alexis Davis.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.