UFC President Dana White has made it clear that he wants Wanderlei Silva to fight Vitor Belfort on the July 4th card in Las Vegas, Nevada. Silva had recently called out Belfort (link), but has since cooled off on that fight, campaigning for a bout against Chris “The Crippler” Leben instead.
“So we offer him the Vitor fight, and now he’s on Twitter lobbying to fight Chris Leben,” White told USA Today. “I don’t want him to fight Chris Leben, I want him to fight Vitor Belfort. Vitor Belfort has accepted the fight, wants the fight. Now we’re waiting for Wanderlei to accept.”
Silva and Leben have expressed interest in fighting each other ever since Leben stepped up in an injured Silva’s place against Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 116 this past July. Both men have cited their respect for the other and his body of work as being the primary reasons for wanting the fight, in addition to the fact that they would almost assuredly put on a barnburner for the fans. However, White appears a little agitated that Silva would turn down a bout with Belfort after turning down a fight with Brian Stann earlier this year due to concerns of how he would be perceived by taking on a military hero.
“Wanderlei turned down Brian Stann too,” said White. “Wanderlei turned down the fight with Brian Stann a few months ago.”
Silva received surgery to repair his knee this past July, after being forced out the bout with Akiyama. The PRIDE FC legend most recently appeared in the Octagon against Michael Bisping at UFC 110 back in February of 2010, where he bounced back from consecutive losses to Quinton Jackson and Rich Franklin by defeating and almost finishing Michael Bisping. Since making his UFC debut in 2007, Silva has gone 2-3 in the UFC; he has lost to Chuck Liddell, Jackson and Franklin and defeated Keith Jardine and Bisping.
Belfort and Silva met early on in their careers at UFC 17.5: Ultimate Brazil in 1998, with Belfort earning a highlight reel, forty-four second knockout over Silva. The two have expressed mutual interest in a rematch recently.
Thanks to Mark Wayne for contributing to this article.