The former UFC middleweight champion held a media day to promote UFC 168 at his gym, Anderson Silva’s Muay Thai College, located in an industrial section of the suburban Los Angeles city in which the UFC evolved out of Rorion Gracie’s garage.
And unlike the Silva of recent media appearances, who came across like he would have rather been anywhere else, Silva was in a relaxed and playful mood Wednesday.
As he bounced his eight-year old son, Jerome, off his knee, an easygoing Silva appeared to revel in the attention his sparkling new facility, decorated with Nike logos and memorabilia from his magnificent career, was getting.
So he was playful with many of his answers as reporters gathered around.
What of the fact that Chris Weidman, the man who knocked him out at UFC 162, said Tuesday that he planned on finishing Silva again in Las Vegas? Silva laughed, mimicked a panic, and said “I’m scared.”
What of those who have compared some of his feats in the Octagon to his martial arts hero, Bruce Lee? “I’m down here,” said Silva while pointing to the floor, “and Bruce Lee is up here.”
When it comes to the heart of the matter, though, Silva remained as elusive as he was dodging Forrest Griffin’s punches at UFC 101. The reason the rematch between Silva and Weidman on Dec. 28 is going to be one of the most-viewed fights in UFC history, of course, is because of what happened the first time out.
Some viewed what happened that night as Silva clowning and Weidman making him pay. Others saw it as Silva playing his usual game but getting caught. Either way, the end result was one of the most shocking moments in the history of combat sports, as Weidman knocked Silva cold.
So what happened? “Sometimes you have good days for working, sometimes you have bad days for working. My last fight was a bad day.”
Are we going to see what we saw last time? “I watch the last fight,” Silva said. “And I see my technique and I talk to my friends and my coach and I don’t change too much. I train hard (on) my mental (game) because my mental was bad.”
So maybe, come Dec. 28, we’ll see the Anderson Silva who came out with fire in his eyes against Rich Franklin and knocked him halfway back to Cincinnati. Maybe we’ll see the Silva who toyed with his foes before finishing them. Maybe we’ll see the fighter who got off to slow starts with wrestlers like Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson and somehow willed his way to victory.
No matter how hard we pry between now and the end of next week, Silva isn’t going to tell us his plans. And according to his manager, Ed Soares, that’s exactly why UFC 168 is going to be so big.
“We don’t know which Anderson we’re going to see,” Soares said. “I don’t even know. Look, what happened in Anderson’s last fight is, in every Anderson Silva fight, you’re going to see a magic moment happen. For 16 fights, Anderson was on the right end of the magic moment. In the last fight, Anderson was on the wrong end. Hat’s off to Chris for pulling it off. But I don’t know what we’ll see and the fans don’t and that’s why so many people are going to tune in.”
Interest in the fight is such that even Silva’s fellow UFC 168 card-mates have thoughts to share. Josh Barnett has been around MMA as long as Silva. The former UFC heavyweight champion, who fights Travis Browne on the main card in Las Vegas, isn’t an easy man to impress, but even he’s blown away by what the champ’s been able to accomplish.
“Silva’s awesome,” Barnett said in a recent chat with MMAFighting. “To be as good as he’s been in this business as long as he has, that’s something else. This isn’t an easy game to get to the top and it’s more difficult to stay there. Honestly, I think Silva wins this one handily. No disrespect to Chris, he has a humble attitude and he’s putting in his work, but I saw things in that first fight that I think Silva’s going to exploit.”
Silva’s not going to discuss those “things” Barnett referenced. He did open up, though, when asked questions about matters other than Weidman. Silva was asked how he managed to get things together at his career’s midpoint, when he suffered three losses in eight fights and appeared to have stalled out. Silva credited the Nogueira brothers for getting the most out of his talents.
“Rogerio and Minotauro helped me straighten my faults for training and my dream to fight,” said Silva, who memorably submitted Sonnen in the fifth round of their UFC 117 fight after Sonnen had mocked Silva’s black belt. “I need to say thank you so much for Rodrigo and Rogerio because the guys gave me the chance to follow my dream.”
That dream turned into his unprecedented run at the top, holding the UFC middleweight title just shy of six years and nine months and winning 17 fights in a row.
Which brings us back to Weidman. Finally, after shrugging it off, Silva admits that the Weidman fight means something more to him than just any old fight.
“This is very important for me,” Silva said. “For my family, my coach, for my legacy, this is very important.”
And what does Silva view as his legacy?
“So the people, maybe in five or 10 years, the people say ‘my gosh, this guy changed the sport. For five years this guy fight for the best fight for the people.’ In Brazil, I have a program for kids and I see the kids, ‘oh my gosh, one day I go to fight because you changed my life.’ This is more important to me, to change kids’ lives, than to beat Chris Weidman.”