Anderson Silva is perhaps the UFC’s most prized treasure. | Photo: Sherdog.com
No man has dominated the UFC quite like reigning middleweight champion Anderson Silva. In short, he has run roughshod over the 185-pound division, a record 13-fight winning streak inside the Octagon the result. Rich Franklin, Nate Marquardt, Dan Henderson, Forrest Griffin, Chael Sonnen and Demian Maia were all left in Silva’s destructive wake, as the Brazilian established himself as one of the greatest fighters of all-time.
And to think, it almost never happened.
According to longtime friend and training partner Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Silva almost called it quits before entering the UFC.
“Anderson was a little discouraged because of his feud with [Chute Boxe Academy founder] Rudimar [Fedrigo],” Nogueira told Sherdog.com. “The doors of Pride [Fighting Championships] were closed to him, and he wanted to stop fighting.”
Silva has since built one of the sport’s richest resumes, which includes 15 first-round finishes. Nogueira has grown close to the man they call “The Spider,” who debuted 11 years ago.
“I’ve always been a fan of Anderson’s,” he said. “Back when he was in Meca, I met his dad, and we talked. He always treated me very well. Nobody talked a lot in Japan, but I always had a good relationship with everyone. I always liked to talk with Anderson. He has always been very respectful because he’s a student of the martial arts.”
Now 36, Silva dealt with plenty of adversity in his rise to the top. He suffered two submission defeats inside Pride -- the first to the lightly regarded Daiju Takase, the second to Japanese journeyman Ryo Chonan -- that exposed glaring holes in his game. Silva sought out “Minotauro,” his brother, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and Rafael Cavalcante in an effort to close them.
“He was very good at muay Thai and was a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, but he didn’t have an adequate ground game for MMA,” Nogueira said. “He was very good on the ground and had great ability, but he didn’t have the ground skills of Carlson Gracie. He couldn’t fight that way because he was weaker and thinner than the others, and guys could catch him. He came to train with us at Brazilian Top Team and picked up the necessary skills on the ground, working with me, Rogerio and Feijao.”
In time, Silva paired a potent ground game with his otherworldly standup skills.
“He’s improved a lot on the ground and managed to improve his standup game, so he would have more confidence if it were to go to the ground,” Nogueira said. “If he went to the ground, he would have an MMA ground game. I think it was very good for him. We helped him in jiu-jitsu, and he helped us in muay Thai.”
When talk of Silva’s possible retirement reached Nogueira’s ear, he intervened.
“We arranged a fight for him in Bahia and asked if he was willing, and he accepted,” Nogueira said. “He did the fight in Bahia and then got another in Korea. Then I arranged some fights in England through a contact of a friend of mine. That’s when it all came together.”