File Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Though challengers seem to be in scarce supply for UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, he said he hasn’t given up hope on the division.
The 34-year-old Brazilian striker meets Demian Maia at UFC 112 “Invincible” on April 10 at the Ferrari World Concert Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Maia, a jiu-jitsu black belt, is replacing Vitor Belfort, who withdrew eight weeks out from the bout with an injured shoulder.
“I’m actually far from cleaning out my division,” said Silva through an interpreter Tuesday during a UFC 112 conference call. “I feel like there may be guys that are even better than me coming into the UFC. Proof that there’s tough guys in the division is Demian Maia right now... (the fight’s) going to be a big challenge for me.”
Fans might beg to differ with Silva, though. Regularly listed on pound-for-pound lists for the sport, the seasoned muay Thai stylist has defended his middleweight title five times since his first-round decimation of Rich Franklin at UFC 64 in October 2006. A majority of those bouts were deemed non-competitive. And though Silva said the 185-pound division will provide him with competition in the future, he has already widened his net and moonlighted at light heavyweight two times for the promotion. He doesn’t plan on stopping there either.
“My goal is still to put on as many great fights in the UFC, as many victories as I can throughout the three divisions -- middleweight, light heavyweight and possibly heavyweight,” said Silva. “Heavyweight is definitely something I have in mind. It’s in my plans. I’ve been adapting my training and ever-changing to take on that challenge.”
Belfort, a former light heavyweight champion himself, would have been an easier sell for the promotion as a believable unsurper to end Silva’s reign. Silva’s former Black House teammate ravaged his last three opponents utilizing his noted punching power and speed. In November, Belfort dismantled Franklin in a 195-pound catch-weight bout at UFC 103 in Dallas.
Unlike Belfort, Maia isn’t expected to challenge Silva on its feet. Following his 21-second knockout loss to Nate Marquardt at UFC 102 last August, Maia showed some improvement striking against wrestler Dan Miller at UFC 109 in February. However, Maia’s true talents lie in his groundwork. As always, Silva said his course of action will best suit his chances for victory, which means a ground altercation probably isn’t in his best interests.
“A fight’s a fight and I have to put my game plan in action,” he said. “The fans in the state love to watch guys stand up and exchange and they like it on the ground. (But) regardless of what the fans really like, I’m going to have to go in there and put on my game plan to win that fight.”
With immediate contenders like Dan Henderson gone to rival promotion Strikeforce and Belfort indisposed from recent shoulder surgery, Silva’s motivation doesn’t seem to come from individual opponents at this time.
“My biggest motivation is to be the champion of the UFC, the biggest event in the world,” he said. “I feel right at home in the UFC; everyone who makes the UFC circus move makes me feel right at home and very comfortable. I’m very happy with where I’m at. I love being the champion, that it makes me happy and motivates me to get the training and getting back into the Octagon.”
Note: This article was updated March 24 at 12:44 p.m. ET to correct that Belfort and Silva trained together at Black House, not Chute Boxe.