A quarter-second later, and Chael Sonnen might have been the first UFC fighter to get punched by a fan.
Were it not for a security worker with lightning reflexes, Sonnen (28-12-1 MMA, 6-5 UFC) might've had a shiner to show off next week at UFC 159, where he meets champ Jon Jones (16-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC) at Newark, N.J.'s Prudential Center.
Sonnen was at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale when a male fan from Brazil called him over to the stands at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Events Center, UFC President Dana White relayed earlier today at a press conference for UFC on FOX 7, which takes place Saturday at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.
Sonnen went over only to get swung on by the man, who "got bundled and dragged up every stair" of the arena while cursing the light-heavyweight contender, White said.
"It was very quick, like those things typically happen," said Sonnen in an interview today with MMAjunkie.com (UFC blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps
). "I was visiting with some fans, and a gentleman had started in on me. Ultimately, that's what it led to.
"I think a fan can do anything they want. I think they can heckle, a fan can boo, but they can't touch you. But the same thing goes for me. I can yell at a fan too, but you can't touch them. If you want to be a fan, you buy the ticket, and you can have any energy you want, whether it's positive or negative. And in this case it was negative, and he went a little too far."
For all the verbal jabs he's thrown in his rise to prominence, Sonnen has taken plenty of boos, but he said no fan has ever gotten physical.
"It was really quite interesting," Sonnen said. "He was caught literally a quarter-second before it would have landed. I barely saw it coming in before a gentleman named Kaya stepped in and caught it."
Sonnen, though, said that he wouldn't have hit back had the security guard been a little slower.
"We only compete in highly regulated and sanctioned matches," he said. "I'm not a fan of that, but if he would have connected, I would have turned the other cheek and walked away. I certainly wouldn't have engaged him.
"The guy seemed like a perfectly nice guy. He was an Anderson Silva fan. He was backing Anderson Silva verbally. For it to turn physical, yes, that was a surprise. But until that point, he just seemed like a guy with a passion for his favorite fighter."