Few fighters drew as much attention as former UFC middleweight champion Anderson “The Spider” Silva in his pomp. Fighters Only caught up with him for Issue 45 in January 2009, just after he was crowned the 2008 Fighter of the Year…
Possibly the most devastating striker the sport has ever seen, Silva seamlessly blends his punches, kicks, and knees. It is no exaggeration to say that he puts the ‘art’ into Mixed Martial Arts. His Muay Thai is admired by fans and feared by opponents, but the Brazilian has a developed grappling game to complement his stand-up.
One area in which Silva has proved highly effective is in his ability to entertain. Fans love his combination of precise technique and utter ruthlessness, and even though he speaks very little English his easy charisma shines through in his interviews, winning him many admirers.
His three outings in the Octagon during the nomination period saw Silva at his very best. In October 2007, he faced Rich Franklin, the man he took the middleweight title from in 2006. Franklin had hoped for a better showing than in their first fight, but Silva despatched him in the second round by TKO. Next up was Dan Henderson, regarded by many as one of the toughest middleweights in the world. Silva took him out in the second round too. Last was Silva’s first appearance at 205 pounds, and a matchup with gatekeeper James Irvin. Silva stunned Irvin, and the crowd, and walked away the winner after only 61 seconds.
With boundless ability, a fight-anyone mentality, legions of fans, and a fast-growing legacy in the sport, it is clear to see why you voted Anderson Silva as Fighter of the Year. Up against some very worthy candidates, Silva still manages to shine as something special. We caught up with the UFC middleweight titleholder at the end of a very busy year and got his reaction to being named Fighter of the Year.
Anderson, congratulations! These are the first-ever World MMA Awards, and you have the honor of being named Fighter of the Year by our readers. Knowing that the fans voted for you, how do you feel?
It makes me very happy to know that my work is recognized and appreciated by the fans – I’m very happy!
They recognize your skill as champion, but you are also very popular with the fans. What is it like when you meet them?
I think it’s cool. It makes me happy to be in touch with my fans, talk to them and take pictures. It’s very fulfilling.
At age 33 and with eight years of MMA behind you, what is your motivation to fight? Do you fight so that you can look after your family? For fun? Or do you do it so you can be the best?
What motivates me is knowing that God gave me a talent, and that I can use this to entertain people and have them appreciate it. My natural abilities can serve as a reference even to kids, women, and the elderly. I think that my mission is to continue my work to make people respect and understand our sport, and – by being someone people can look up to – hopefully, I can help build our future champions.
You come from a humble background in Brazil. Now you live in a big house and travel the world. Are you still the same Anderson Silva as before, or has the success changed things?
With success, of course some things change; you are not the same person. But what can’t change is your personality or your character. Your posture changes, you have more responsibilities and you have to be more aware of your surroundings, because success comes to you fast, and can go away just as fast.
When you first started fighting, you were a featherweight, only 65kg / 145lb. Did you ever imagine you would become the fighter you are today?
No, I couldn’t imagine it, but it all happened because it had to. I never did this for the money or fame – I do it for the love of the sport.
For some fighters, the training is the part they hate most. Do you enjoy being in the gym?
I love the gym, I love training. Even when I’m not training, I am at the gym helping out my students. I think that what makes me the champion that I am is my dedication to training. I also love teaching and coaching my students and teammates. I spend more time at the gym than I do at home!
You fight alongside famous fighters like UFC heavyweight champion “Minotauro” Nogueira and his brother “Minotoro,” as well as many others. How important is the team you train with?
We are not a team, we are a family. With the evolution of things, we stopped calling ourselves a team; a lot of teams lose their values and break up. We are a family, we are brothers. We are conscious that we are all the same, no one is better than anyone, and we know where we came from, where we are, and where we are going. Many guys look up to us; we have to do our part by acting naturally and helping them out.
In your career, you have represented different teams – have you found your home now? Will you ever change teams again?
I haven’t represented many teams. The only one that I really represented was Chute Boxe, where I used to train. Since then I was part of some teams, but I always stood alongside Rodrigo’s [Minotauro’s] work. It was all a great experience for today. With all our experience, we know how to deal with things better.
You opened an academy with Minotauro in Miami. Have you ever thought about moving to America?
It’s in my plans. The academy with the Nogueiras and Daniel Valverde is going well. It was a project that worked out, and we have other projects – Rodrigo has even opened an academy in Dallas.
There is one question in every fan’s mind. Are you really going to retire in 2009?
It is possible, we will wait, but there is always a chance. We will see what happens next year.
When you do retire, if it is next year or in five years, what will you do? Will you open another academy? Will you take a job? Will you move away from MMA completely?
I don’t know yet, but I know I will always be involved in MMA. It is in my plans to open an academy to pass my knowledge on.
There were rumors that your next fight could be in England against Chuck Liddell at 205lb. Can you talk about this?
I don’t know anything about it. But since I can also fight at 205 pounds it is possible, but I don’t know about Dana’s plans. It would be a tough fight that I would have to train hard for.
You have always said you will fight anybody. If you could choose your opponent for your next fight, who would it be?
I would like to fight my clone – it would be an endless fight.
Finally – who do you think will win Fighter of the Year in 2009?
There are many great fighters out there: BJ Penn, Georges St-Pierre, Rashad Evans, Forrest Griffin. It’s a hard decision, but I think my vote goes to Lyoto Machida, who in my opinion is the best at 205 pounds.
Anderson Silva Career Highlights, October 2007 to July 2008
Silva’s career spans eight and a half years and has seen him visit four continents, although the three fights that took place during the nomination period were arguably some of his finest.
vs. Rich Franklin, October 2007
When they first met in 2006, Silva brutally introduced his knees to Franklin’s face, leaving the former titleholder in a heap halfway through the first round. Franklin made it into the second round in this rematch, although Silva again made use of his dominance in the clinch to punish Franklin. It was at range that Silva found his finish though, leathering his opponent with kicks and punches that prompted the referee to intervene a little over a minute into the second round.
vs. Dan Henderson, March 2008
Henderson was noted as a granite-jawed wrestler with impeccable credentials and balls the size of coconuts. ‘Hendo’ has most recently unsuccessfully challenged Quinton Jackson for the light heavyweight title, but the former Pride middleweight champ decided to drop back down to 185lb in the hope of taking Silva’s title instead. Though starting strong and neutralizing Silva for the entire first round, Henderson succumbed to Silva’s strikes in the second. Heavily rocked, Henderson was submitted shortly after with a rear naked choke.
vs. James Irvin, July 2008
Called in to headline a free-to-view Ultimate Fight Night event that was put on by the UFC to counter Affliction’s big pay-per-view event, Anderson Silva made the unexpected step of moving up to light heavyweight. The UFC matchmakers made many phone calls to try and find an opponent for Silva, but only one man rose to the challenge: gatekeeper James Irvin. Irvin was coming off a big KO win over Houston Alexander going into this fight, but it was Silva who was dishing out the punches, dropping and stopping Irvin a little over a minute into the contest.
Originally published in Issue 45 of Fighters Only magazine.