There was no grand announcement, no tears to wipe away. It was really more of a hypothetical than anything else.
But Stephan Bonnar was retired. Mostly. Sort of. With an asterisk.
Truth is, he wasn't getting phone calls from the UFC for fights with what he wanted, and what he wanted was a big-name opponent. How big? Bonnar's criteria was simple: If a potential opponent had more Twitter followers than him, then yes. And if not, no thanks.
The Munster native was enjoying a bit of a late-career resurgence with three consecutive wins after a three-fight skid. And while the wins were good – a TKO and a pair of dominant decisions in which he never really was challenged – they weren't the kind of wins that cement a legacy.
Bonnar wanted that one big name on the way out before the retirement was a real one and not just a threat. He wanted former light heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, but it never materialized. He and two-time opponent Forrest Griffin campaigned with UFC President Dana White to be coaches opposite each other on "The Ultimate Fighter," the show whose first season they fought on – a bout that is given credit for launching MMA and the UFC into the mainstream. But White wasn't interested.
And then the name came: Anderson Silva, the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world and the UFC's middleweight champ, who will move up from 185 pounds to 205 for the non-title fight in Silva's home country of Brazil. Bonnar wanted a foe with more Twitter followers, and he got one – to the tune of about 2.5 million to Bonnar's just more than 50,000.
"It really went from me being retired to the biggest fight I could ever dream of having – overnight. Life is funny sometimes," Bonnar said.
What is far from comical, though, are the odds against Bonnar (14-7, 8-6 UFC). The betting line for the light heavyweight bout reached as much as 14-to-1 in favor of Silva (32-4 15-0).
Silva won the UFC middleweight title in his second fight with the promotion and hasn't looked back, going 15-0 and setting the record for title defenses and consecutive wins. He really has been challenged only once, and he won that fight, anyway, submitting Chael Sonnen in the fifth round after being beaten up for the first four. So dominant has Silva been at middleweight that twice prior, like the fight with Bonnar, he has moved up a weight class just to challenge himself.
But Bonnar says no matter what the odds, it's just fine with him.
"I like that I'm the underdog and no one's believing in me – and I don't blame them," Bonnar said. "Look what Anderson's done: 15 straight wins in the UFC, he's had the belt forever now, two fights at 205, and he destroyed the guys in less than a round. So no, it doesn't bother me at all."
Bonnar also doesn't expect to be bothered by the fans, who booed him roundly, but respectfully, at Friday's weigh-in event, at which Bonnar was 205 pounds to Silva's 202. The fans in Rio de Janeiro clearly will be backing their countryman, even though Bonnar typically is a fan favorite everywhere he fights.
"I think I'm going to get my (butt) bit off (by the fans), but I think if I go out there and fight my (butt) off, then I think I'll kind of win them over if I put up a good fight," Bonnar said. "It's like be careful what you ask for – you just might get it. I want a big name – I get the biggest name out there. I want to be one of the main guys on the fight card, and I'm in the main event. It's crazy. I never dreamed of this. I asked for Rampage; I asked for Forrest, and I didn't get them. I just thought, 'Oh well, I tried, and I didn't get it. It's just not going to work out, and I'm retired.'
"But in the snap of a finger, all those things I asked for came true – literally overnight. It blows my mind, man."
UFC 153 takes place at HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro with Bonnar and Silva as the main event on pay-per-view.