Booking a 43-year-old Anderson Silva against rising star Israel Adesanya seemed like a cruel bit of matchmaking from the UFC, but it seems that there was an added incentive for “The Spider” to accept the bout.
“[UFC President Dana White] came to Los Angeles to talk to me," Silva said in an interview with ESPN. "I said to him, 'Why am I going to take this fight?' And Dana said, 'You know, you win this fight, you go to the title belt.' I said, 'OK, now you are talking good business for me.'"
Silva hasn’t competed since he ended a five-bout winless streak with a contentious decision win over Derek Brunson at UFC 208 in February 2017. He was slated to face Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Fight Night 122 but was pulled from the fight following a failed drug test. He was ultimately given a one-year suspension by USADA for taking a contaminated supplement; Silva previously failed multiple drug tests in relation to a UFC 183 bout against Nick Diaz.
Adesanya has kicked off his professional tenure with 15 consecutive triumphs, including four in the UFC. Most recently, the flashy striker earned a first-round technical knockout win over Brunson at UFC 230 on Nov. 3. “The Last Stylebender” has certainly caught Silva’s attention.
"This is a great challenge for me," Silva said. "My entire life, since I started martial arts, I have taken the best challenge. Israel is a young guy and the future of the sport. Everybody is talking about Israel. I think this is the best fight in the sport."
Silva and Adesanya will square off at UFC 234 in Melbourne, Australia on Feb. 9. The card is headlined by a middleweight championship clash between Robert Whittaker and Gastelum.