National Columnist

Silva-Sonnen, II ... this is why I love the UFC

Even after all that, there was grace. There was class. There was the UFC, as it should be ... and as it so often is.

That's surely not the way it seems to people who have paid attention to the UFC only to wince at the garbage flowing from middleweight challenger Chael Sonnen's mouth as he talked his way into Brazilian champion Anderson Silva's octagon -- and head -- but it's true. The UFC is charming even as blood spills and bones break.

Silva showed it after defeating Sonnen on Saturday night in Round 2 of Round II, interrupting his victorious post-fight press conference to walk over to the beaten Sonnen and shake his hand -- and then interrupting thousands of his countrymen in attendance as they booed Sonnen.

And make no mistake, Sonnen deserved the boos. He had said despicable things about Silva, about Silva's friends, his family, his country. Sonnen deserved those boos just like he deserved that beating, but when it was over Anderson Silva shook his hand, thanked him for the fight, invited him to his house for a barbecue.

Seriously. Silva invited Sonnen over for barbecue. Right there in the octagon, as blood leaked from Sonnen's nose.

And Sonnen, finally, showed class in return. He shook Silva's hand, called him a great champion, walked out of the cage with so much more decency than he walked into it.

In Sonnen's defense, he had been selling this fight. That's really all he was doing. And he did it well, selling it to the point that the UFC itself was hyping UFC 148 as the biggest night in the sport's history. Why? Because Sonnen talked that much. And because Sonnen's words made Silva that angry. And because people wanted to -- no, had to -- watch.

Sonnen was selling this fight, but he crossed the line, and then he kept going, mocking Brazilians as stupid, as lacking hygiene, as lots of stuff that just don't ever need to be said. Only, Sonnen said them. He was selling the fight, but that's no excuse. He went too far, and Silva made him pay.

But then that amazing thing happened at the end, when Silva welcomed his young sons into the octagon -- one of them was nearly hyperventilating -- and hugged them and then turned to Sonnen and showed him grace. And Sonnen showed grace in return. This was winning with class and this was losing with class. After months of low moments, first Sonnen saying despicable things and then Silva countering that he would break all of Sonnen's bones and make Sonnen swallow all of his teeth, this was a high.

And it was absolutely befitting of this sport, mixed martial arts, which (usually) has charm under all that bravado and blood. Two fights earlier, Cung Le and Patrick Cote had slugged it out for 15 minutes, pausing only to high-five each other or to smile and wink at the other man out of appreciation and respect for each other's skill.

One fight earlier, Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz grinded it out for 15 minutes, their third of three fights, the last fight of Ortiz's Hall of Fame career. When Griffin's victory was announced and UFC announcer Joe Rogan entered the octagon to interview the winner, Griffin would have none of that. This was his fight, but it was Ortiz's night -- so Griffin interviewed Ortiz. And Ortiz gave great answers.

This sport is the opposite of boxing. It has heart and class, grace and charm. It has its low moments, like when Sonnen says something xenophobic or a fighter fails a drug test or UFC president Dana White says something indefensibly cruel, but all sports have their low moments.

The UFC counters with skin-tingling highs like what happened Saturday night, after the fights were finished.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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