Wanderlei Silva may be in the twilight of his career, but he isn’t ready to hang up his gloves quite yet.
The 36-year-old “Axe Murderer” does have thoughts about life after fighting, and particularly about how he can use his skills and stardom to enrich the lives of others. Sherdog.com recently sat down with the Brazilian MMA icon, who discussed his eventual retirement, his recent loss to Rich Franklin, his desire to fight old rival Vitor Belfort and more.
Sherdog.com: Talk about the recent growth of MMA in Brazil.
Wanderlei Silva: We’ve managed to really popularize the sport now. Every Brazilian likes fighting, but they’ve had no access, only late at night on pay-per-view. Now that we have more access to the sport, everyone has fallen in love. I’m glad to be part of this moment of MMA in Brazil. The sport is finally recognized in Brazil, and the road for the newer athletes is a little easier. They get sponsorships, the best gyms, the best coaches.
I walk down the street in Curitiba and people come up to me to talk and take pictures. I’m very happy to have this recognition and to serve as a motivation for the new guys. We’re living through so many social problems in Brazil. With a little room and a mat, we can save many lives, because MMA is the cheapest sport there is. What is the basic equipment? A pair of shorts, and a banana with bread in the morning. In the days when I had no supplements, I bought a loaf of bread in the morning and ate a banana. I had a super workout. It’s cheap; you just need the willpower. We can greatly improve Brazil with our sport.
Sherdog.com: How was the atmosphere around “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” and having to deal with Vitor?
Silva: We didn’t have much contact, thank God. The contact we did have was when we were picking the matchups. Then, the guy came and dropped his pearls of wisdom. There are people who were not born to work together, and I was not born to work with him. There are people whose spirits don’t match and there’s just no way. What can I do? He’s a guy who I wouldn’t have close to me. Those who like him, like him, but for me, particularly, he’s rather neutral.
Sherdog.com: Was the matching of fights a main factor in your team’s defeat on “TUF?”
Silva: Actually, I didn’t watch the program a lot. For me, as an athlete, if I went there to fight, I’d fight anyone at my weight. So, I didn’t bother much with the matching of the fights. I left that part for him. This was the main factor. All the fighters that I chose were very good athletes, disciplined. They deserved to be there.
Sherdog.com: Who drew the most attention on your team?
Silva: Actually, I liked them all. It’s like sons; you don’t love one more than the others. There were only hard workers there, and it was difficult, because I knew how important that opportunity was to those guys. Obviously, I wanted them to win. I went home very sad about the results, because I’m involved a lot. I was very happy that they all went back to fight. I think most will be used by the UFC. I wish luck to all who got contracts with the UFC, and also to those who didn’t, because they made names for themselves, and now they just need to train and focus. Keep moving forward. Even those who left, I hope to see returning to the UFC someday.
Sherdog.com: Do you believe any of the “TUF Brazil” fighters have a chance at getting titles one day?
Silva: Rony “Jason” [Mariano Bezerra] has a chance, because he’s very well-rounded; he’s good standing and good on the ground. “Massaranduba” [Francisco Trinaldo] is good in his weight class, 70 kilos [154 pounds]. He’s a guy who can face anyone. Thiago “Bodao” [de Oliveira Perpetuo] is a guy who can stand and grow against adversity. Everyone there, each one has a chance. If they sharpen up and fix their mistakes, everyone has a chance. In my mind, I don’t see many limitations for people. Everyone can evolve when they’re committed to their work.
Sherdog.com: Dana White criticized the behavior of the “TUF Brazil” athletes, who disappointed him at UFC 147.
Silva: It’s complicated. There is no way to defend them. In the sport, it’s like this: If you present yourself well, you’re praised. If you do something stupid or don’t present yourself the way you ought to, you have to deal with criticism and improve for the next time. That is, if you have a next time, right? Suddenly, many guys end up losing at the first opportunity, unfortunately.
Sherdog.com: Belfort will fight in Rio against Alan Belcher this October. Do you still believe you can face Vitor?
Silva: Sure! I already signed the contract and, sooner or later, this fight will happen. I’m ready. Although I didn’t win the fight against [Rich] Franklin, I had good moments, fought for 25 minutes and it was the “Fight of the Night.” I’ll fight with Belfort whenever he wants, wherever he wants.
Sherdog.com: Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen -- what lesson did you take from the rematch?
Silva: All that was left was pulling out teeth. [laughs] Sonnen had a good time in the first round, and I thought he was going to make it to the end of the fight. For us, it was like, “Will it happen again?” But in the second round, Anderson managed the time, avoided the takedown and finished beautifully. He honored the name of all Brazilians who were disrespected by Sonnen so many times. Congratulations to Anderson, he put to rest all the doubt from the other fight.
Sherdog.com: Would you still like to fight Sonnen?
Silva: I’d like to. He’s a great opponent. I would love to be the next Brazilian to beat the s--- out of him. So, Joe Silva [UFC matchmaker], my name is on the list. I’d accept with no problem.
Sherdog.com: What do you have to say about Dana’s suggestion for you concerning retirement?
Silva: At my age, we have to think about it. I have to think about my next step, and that’s a very difficult thing for an athlete, to say “enough.” I’ve fought for more than 20 years. Fighting is my main thing. It’s what holds me. It’s what gets me up and going to the gym every day to train. Fighting is my life. I’m holding on to see how far I can go, but then we have to leave it in God’s hands. I’m feeling good in practice, but at one time or another, we have to stop. I don’t know when that will happen to me. Let’s see.
Sherdog.com: What about Dana’s invitation for you to continue working behind the scenes, like Chuck Liddell?
Silva: I’m honored by the invitation from the boss. We have a good relationship. We respect each other and we get on with each other. He does a lot for the sport and I’m honored to receive such a compliment from the boss. I know we can do a lot more to spread the sport much further. One of my focuses is to make academies available for free to the people. There are many people who want to train but can’t afford it. There are people in need. At my gym as well, sometimes a guy has five or six foster children and can’t pay for their training, and we let them go for free. We have a free schedule where we only pay the teacher. I want to implement this in Brazil, where the professor will be paid for the lessons, but the academy will make space for those who can’t afford it. The gain we have compared to the satisfaction is really priceless.
Sherdog.com: Anderson’s biography is causing a lot of controversy due to revelations he made from the Chute Boxe era. Do you have plans to write your own biography and reveal such secrets in the future?
Silva: Some things don’t need to be said, whether true or not. He didn’t have to say certain things. Then, one person says something is true, and another says it isn’t. This is no good for anyone. Not for him as a champion, and not for the other person who may have been wronged. My biography, I’ll just release it when I’m close to dying. Then I can talk about everything. [laughs] I think I’ll write a book, too. There are a lot of stories which we live. I can’t leave without a solution to the problems that I’ve been through.
Sherdog.com: The UFC will return to Japan again soon. How do you see the chance to fight in front of your Japanese fans again?
Silva: I would like to fight in Japan again, perhaps for my last fight. It’s a dream to fight back there, where I made my whole career. I made my life there. I hope to fight again for the people of Japan, because I have many fans there and it’s a country that I respect. It has a culture that I respect very much. It would be a privilege to fight back there.