Anderson Silva has won a record 13 straight fights in the UFC. | Photo: Dave Mandel
At 36, Anderson Silva has accumulated too many accomplishments to list. Already regarded by some as the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time, the UFC middleweight champion will defend his crown against Yushin Okami -- the last man to defeat him, albeit by disqualification -- in the UFC 134 main event on Saturday at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Few, if any, have lived the dream like Silva. The most dominant UFC champion ever, he recently signed with 9ine, the sports marking company owned by Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo. In addition, Silva landed sponsorship deals with Nike and Sport Club Corinthians Paulista, along with a promotional contract with Burger King. He has taken MMA to a new level in the Brazilian mainstream media.
In this interview with Sherdog.com, Silva discusses his forthcoming rematch with Okami, the long-awaited comeback of his friend, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, the possibility of moving up in weight, light heavyweight titleholder Jon Jones’ dominance at 205 pounds and the secret behind what keeps him motivated after nearly five years as champion.
Sherdog.com: Team Nogueira includes you, Rodrigo Nogueira, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Junior dos Santos, Antonio Silva, Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Mario Sperry, Pedro Rizzo, Erick Silva, Thiago “Jambo” Goncalves and Josh Janousek, in addition to coaches Luis Dorea, Ricardo De La Riva, Ramon Lemos, Amaury Bitetti and Cesario de Souza. How do you feel about the quality of training at Team Nogueira?
Silva: It’s all about Rodrigo. Everybody loves him. We are an extension of the work he’s been doing for years. Everybody likes him so much that we’re all helping him succeed in his next fight [against Brendan Schaub at UFC 134]. At the same time, we help each other on our own fights, focusing on victories and the victory of Team Nogueira. We are working very head to achieve that.
Sherdog.com: I remember seeing you while you were preparing in the United States to fight against Chael Sonnen at UFC 117. You weren’t even close to the same level of motivation and excitement you’ve shown while training in Brazil with your friends at Team Nogueira. Here, we saw you joking around, having fun and dancing. You even bring your kids. I think it’s pretty clear that you prefer training in Brazil. Is that true?
Silva: Absolutely. Always. Here, I’m at home with friends, and it’s totally different. We’re family here, and we’re always helping each other. No question, my preparation is better here.
Sherdog.com: Many people believe you are not as motivated as you should be entering your rematch with Okami since you are a heavy favorite and he does not have a big name. How do you respond to that?
Silva: Not true at all. Every athlete who gets a chance to fight for the UFC belt is well-trained and prepared, so you need to keep it together and stay focused in order to not be surprised. Okami always comes in well-prepared, so I’m training hard to make sure that people are right when they say I’m the favorite and to come back with the result that we’re hoping to get -- a victory. I’m always trained and motivated.
Sherdog.com: What do you think about Okami training with Sonnen -- more marketing than truth?
Silva: I don’t know if they’re training together or not. I just know that I’m training and training a lot. I’m looking forward to making a good fight and pleasing the Brazilian fans. I don’t have much to say. I just train and do my job in the Octagon.
Sherdog.com: You are really close to “Minotauro,” and you two are preparing and training together to fight on the same night. What are the emotions like seeing him back in training and finally healthy?
Silva: He looks really good in training; he’s catching everyone. He looks quick and agile. If you land in his game, you’re done. Rodrigo is the greatest example of overcoming life’s adversities that I’ve ever had. Everyone’s excited about his fight. I’m even more excited and more concerned with his fight than I am with mine. When he started physical therapy [after his hip and knee surgeries], we didn’t think he would be able to come back at 100 percent and fight. In training, he’s shown the opposite, as he’s even faster and more agile than before. We’re all hoping he’ll win his fight. His victory will be our victory, as well.
Sherdog.com: UFC President Dana White said in an interview with Combate Channel that he would love to see you fight at light heavyweight again because you have put on good shows every time you have fought there. Do you still think about moving up in weight?
Silva: My focus is on staying at middleweight. I’ve had the opportunity to fight in Pride [Fighting Championships] as a light heavyweight, and I also fought there in the UFC -- to prove myself and see what it was like. It was great, but I don’t have that ambition. Of course, it’s all a matter of negotiation, but my desire is to stay at middleweight.
Sherdog.com: Let’s talk about the guys who are at light heavyweight. Do you see anyone who can beat champion Jon Jones today?
Silva: Oh, Jon Jones has some good momentum going. I think he’s getting better as an athlete and always shows some development and better technique. He’s evolving a lot. To me, today, I don’t see anyone who has enough to beat him. Of course, no one is unbeatable. He’s overcoming adversities and learning every day. He’s a guy who really can adapt to all types of techniques and has everything he needs to keep the belt for a long time. He is reigning at his weight and surpassing all expectations. He was absolutely superior in most of his fights so far, but when you become champion, the pressure changes. He now has to live out the responsibilities of a champion and deal with the pressure to succeed as a champion. I hope he knows how to handle it, because it’s not easy at all.
Sherdog.com: You know better than anyone else how that pressure works because you have been living with it for a long time, having broken records as champion of the UFC. How would you describe the pressure involved with becoming and remaining UFC champion and how have you stayed motivated for so long?
Silva: You have to have focus and remember where you came from, where you are and where you want to go. Focus is very important. Me and my team got here, even though many people didn’t think we would ever reach this level. We were always very humble, listing and respecting all the coaches, always observing and studying all the opponents a lot. I think this is the path: always work hard and always be motivated to do the job right.