Anderson Silva was always going to be in Las Vegas for the UFC 200 festivities. The only thing is, he didn’t initially expect to be an active participant.
But when Jon Jones was pulled from the event’s headliner due to an anti-doping violation, “The Spider” quickly threw his hat into the ring for an opportunity to step in and face Daniel Cormier on Saturday. Ultimately, Silva got the nod over fellow would-be Cormier foes Gegard Mousasi and Dan Henderson, and his appearance finally became official on Thursday evening.
Silva won’t be giving anyone the “best camp of his life” speech heading into Saturday night, but the 41-year-old Brazilian feels that he is ready enough to compete.
“I think I’m in good shape and I don’t want Daniel or anyone else to think that I’m underestimating or coming in here to try to challenge the champion. I’m here to challenge myself,” Silva said. “I haven’t trained in a few months but I think I’m in good condition to go in there and put on a good fight.”
Silva was supposed to compete at UFC 198 in his native Curitiba on May 14, but emergency gall bladder surgery forced him out of a proposed matchup with Uriah Hall. Once he agreed to fight Cormier, all parties rushed to get Silva medically cleared to step into the Octagon.
“He had to do all those tests that they have to do. We got it all done in one day and that’s nuts,” UFC President Dana White said.
Silva has fought at 205 pounds three times during his UFC tenure, scoring first-round stoppages of James Irvin, Forrest Griffin and Stefan Bonnar, so to move up a division is nothing new.
“I think it’s an interesting, fun fight. Listen, Anderson Silva’s undefeated at 205,” White said. “Not just undefeated, devastatingly undefeated. Every time he’s moved up to 205, he looked even better than he did at 185. It’s crazy.”
Cormier is a different animal than the previous three light heavyweights Silva has faced. The reigning 205-pound champion is a decorated wrestler and is deceptively athletic for his build. He was a title contender at heavyweight before moving down and capturing light heavyweight gold. Silva is well aware of the challenge that awaits.
“If I was worried, I couldn’t be here and announcing this. A fight’s a fight and I’ve gone through a lot of bad things in the UFC in my fights,” he said. “Anything can happen, but I’m prepared.”
The UFC has been especially unpredictable lately, with Thursday’s lightweight title bout being the latest example. Rafael dos Anjos entered his latest belt defense as a solid favorite over Eddie Alvarez, but the Brazilian’s five-fight winning streak came to an abrupt end in the opening round at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. And about a month earlier, Michael Bisping shocked the world with his first-round knockout of Luke Rockhold at UFC 199.
That a title is not at stake in the makeshift fight was Silva’s choice, according to White.
“Anderson’s philosophy was listen, ‘If I beat Daniel Cormier, people are gonna know I’m the guy anyway.’ It’s a little bit better getting that belt,” White said. “We have to agree to disagree on that one. He wants to fight three rounds. Anderson’s giving Daniel the opportunity to fight, to make money and to perform on UFC 200. So if Anderson wants two rounds, we’ll give him two rounds.”
When Cormier was initially presented with the option to face Silva as a replacement opponent, White said that he asked that the bout be contested at a 210-pound catch-weight. Silva declined that request.
“Of course this is a great challenge, this man,” Silva said. “Obviously I want to be fighting in my own weight class for the belt, but I’m here and it’s a great challenge with everything that I’ve done through wins and defeats and everything.”
Since he wasn’t planning on training for a fight anyway, Silva said his pre-fight preparations won’t vary much from his previous itinerary.
“I was coming to Vegas regardless for some UFC commitments,” he said. “And I came with my kid, so we’re gonna do what we were gonna do before. We’re gonna go to the mall, have some ice cream and hang out.”