UFC returning to California on August 7 with Silva-Sonnen bout in Oakland
The Ultimate Fighting Championship's popularity is spiking upward again, with a sold-out Saturday night card in Las Vegas pitting former light-heavyweight champions Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Rashad Evans at UFC 114 at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
And UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta just confirmed to The Times that middleweight champion Anderson Silva will defend his belt August 7 at Oakland's Oracle Arena against vocal challenger Chael Sonnen.
Like the Jackson-Evans rivalry, there's little love lost between Silva, the champion who has reigned since 2006 and is is ranked by some as the top MMA fighter in the world, and the opinionated Sonnen (24-10), a Republican who is running for a seat in Oregon's legislature and has chided Silva's English-speaking skills.
Silva is coming off an April title defense against Demian Maia, in which the champion disgusted UFC President Dana White and fans in Abu Dhabi with a performance in which he avoided contact, mocked Maia and showboated instead of engaging. At the time, White was so upset he threatened to put a future Silva fight on an undercard, or perhaps even remove the champion's belt.
Silva will have cleaned out the middleweight division by defeating Sonnen, and perhaps might either move up to light-heavyweight after the August bout or angle for a super-fight against welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
Fertitta said the Oakland card will also include a fight between former longtime welterweight champion Matt Hughes and Ricardo Almeida.
The bout will mark UFC's first California fight since an October 2009 event at Staples Center.
Photo: Anderson Silva (right) takes on Demian Maia during a successful UFC middleweight title defense at UFC 112 on April 10 in Abu Dhabi. Credit: Karim Sahib / AFP / Getty Images