All Silva Needs Is A Chance

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 11: <a href='../fighter/anderson-silva'>Anderson Silva</a> of Brazil circles <a href='../fighter/derek-brunson'>Derek Brunson</a> in their middleweight bout during the UFC 208 event inside Barclays Center on February 11, 2017 in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Anderson Silva knows where he’s at in his career. Simply put, at 43 years old, there’s more fight behind the Brazilian icon than ahead of him. And he’s heard the talk and the “R” word, even from those closest to him.

“My family talked to me,” Silva said. “‘Dad, you need to stop.’ My friends too. And I talked to my dad and he said, ‘Okay, why do you continue to do this? You’re crazy, stop, you’re old.’ And I said, ‘No dad, you’re old.’ (Laughs) I love my job and that’s most important. When you have something special inside your heart that you love, keep doing it. Sometimes it’s not easy, but I try to do my best every day.”

And he is Anderson Silva. That means despite being at an age when most are settling into retirement, many believe that he still enough in the tank to beat young gun Israel Adesanya in the UFC 234 co-main event on Saturday.

That’s the magic of “The Spider,” who has been entertaining and dazzling fans in the Octagon since 2006. In that first UFC bout, it took him just 49 seconds to dismantle the steel-chinned Chris Leben, and it was nothing but up from there. After that victory, he was given a shot at middleweight champion Rich Franklin, and it was destiny for the Curitiba native.

“I remember when I started, I was watching UFC and seeing my heroes inside the cage, especially Rich Franklin, and I said, ‘One day I’m gonna fight with this guy,” Silva said. “And I worked hard and God gave me the opportunity to fight Rich Franklin and take the belt for a long, long time.”

After Silva stopped Franklin in less than three minutes and took the 185-pound crown, he did hold it for a long, long time. Nearly seven years long, enough to establish Silva as an all-time great. But nothing lasts forever in combat sports, and starting with his 2013 upset at the hands of Chris Weidman, Silva’s record stands at 1-4 with 1 NC in his last six, with the one win over Derek Brunson in February 2017 considered to be one of the most controversial decisions in recent history.

It’s been a painful stretch for his fans, but there have been glimpses of vintage Silva against the likes of Michael Bisping, Daniel Cormier and Nick Diaz, and those glimpses have given him enough reason to keep going.

“The people are talking, saying you’re old, but I don’t feel that because I’m training every day.”

It’s a new challenge – new athletes, guys coming fast and strong – and it’s a high-level,” he continues. “I’m very happy and very lucky because I stayed on the same level.”

That remains to be seen, and there’s no better truth machine for Silva than this week’s opponent. Adesanya is seen as the future in the middleweight division, and this weekend he gets to show that he’s the present as well. To do so, he has to beat one of his heroes, the original dynamic striker who could stun opponents by mere presence alone. Now Adesanya is here and playing that same game, with the odds saying that he will take the torch from Silva by force in Melbourne. Silva isn’t listening to such talk, though. At this point, he’s just happy to be fighting after two years on the sidelines.

“I fought in the UFC for a long, long time and I’m happy to be back to fight, especially Israel because he’s young and he’s a good talent,” he said. “But it’s not about proving anything to anybody. I’m just trying to work hard on my skills and grow my martial arts technique and try to give something special to my fans, especially since I haven’t fought for a long time.”

How special? Special enough that a win may very well put Silva in a world title fight for the first time since 2013.

“First of all, I need to win the fight, so step by step,” he smiles. “I believe (UFC President) Dana (White) gave me this opportunity because I was champion for a long, long time. I’m working hard for that (title shot) and I’ll try to prove for all my fans in the world I have a chance to take my belt back.”

Sometimes, all the great ones need is a chance, an opportunity to deliver one more performance for the ages. If Silva can do it, well, he knows what it means.

“That’s a Rocky movie,” he said. “Imagine Anderson Silva wins and takes the belts back. Adrian! (Laughs) It’s the Rocky story. But I’m very happy because it’s a challenge. Israel is a great challenge, and I pass this, hopefully I fight for the belt and hopefully it’s a good story and I win and take the belt and drop the mic. It’s done, over, next step.”

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