Getting ready for one of the biggest challenges of his career — the PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix — Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) spoke exclusively to Sherdog.com.
Knowing that the July 1 card will require his best effort, Silva talks about facing Kazuyuki Fujita (Pictures) and his preparation for the fight. He also discusses Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures), Royce Gracie (Pictures) and Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures).
Sherdog.com: What do you think about facing Kazuyuki Fujita (Pictures) in this Grand Prix?
Wanderlei Silva (Pictures): I think the promoters have taken a good choice. He is a tough guy, strong and well rounded. I am training really hard for this match because I know this will be a hard fight. He holds hard shots, has heavy hands and I must be careful and be in perfect condition.
Sherdog.com: The promoters want so much to see a Japanese fighter defeat you — that’s the reason why you’ve faced so many Japanese fighters in your career. Do you think Fujita is the best you’ve faced?
Silva: He is the biggest one — that I can say (laughs) because he is about 265 pounds. He is not a fat guy, he’s a strong guy, so he is the heaviest one! And, just like you said, they are crazy to see a Japanese guy beat me so I think that is the reason they gave me that fight, cause I’ve beaten Hidehiko Yoshida (Pictures) twice before. So, I think that was a good choice of them.
Sherdog.com: How’s your preparation for this fight?
Silva: Really hard. I think I am training more than ever for this fight. My personal trainer, Rafael Alejarra, is giving me a lot of work; he is doing a real good job, well done. He is developing a training method that’s been shocking me — it’s totally focused on fighting abilities. He creates amazing exercises. I’m getting used to my new weight. I’m weighing 216 pounds and I must cut two pounds until the day of the fight. I’m training a lot of jiu-jitsu, a lot wrestling and Muay Thai with my teammates.
Sherdog.com: How’s your preparation going in order to face a guy who’s heavier than you?
Silva: I think I have to be careful in the opening round because he is totally gassed up and I can’t take a shot in the beginning because this will be the end for me. In my opinion, the advantage to fighting against a bigger guy is it’s easier to hit him; he is not as agile as a man in my weight class. I told Alejarra: “You must make me a heavy hitter cause this guy has an iron chin.” I will test my punch against him.
Sherdog.com: This Open-Weight Grand Prix has the toughest guys on earth, am I right?
Silva: That’s true. It’s just like the Coliseum in the Roman Empire when they had to kill a lion. Then they say, ”You can kill a lion, but you can’t kill a lion and a tiger.” And if you do this, they say, “OK, but you can’t kill two lions.” So, let us see. I think this will be a big challenge to me in my career. I know my responsibilities. In the backstage there’s a TV screen and everybody sits around it to watch my fights, so I have to make an amazing fight. Everybody expects me in a great performance, and I promise I will do this. I’m working hard to please my fans and get the win. I think fighters have value based on their performances, so if the guy fights bad he is in trouble.
Sherdog.com: You said already you would like to fight “Minotauro.” It’s coming closer to happening.
Silva: If both he and I win our respective matches he will be my next challenge. Imagine that I’m winning and taking “Minotauro” for the next. If I win I’ll face Mark Hunt (Pictures)! It’s gonna rock, man! But a fighter’s life that’s it, and I’m glad to do this. I respect “Minotauro” a lot. He deserves respect and wonder of everybody. It will be an honor for me to fight him. He has a great name in Japan and I’m sure, if this fight happens, it will make history. This will be a boundary mark for us.
Sherdog.com: Besides the money, what else is motivating you to get into this tournament?
Silva: Every time I’m traveling I’m in touch with the fans. I was in Porto Alegre (a Brazilian City) last weekend and a lot of people came to me and gave me a positive response. I think it’s what they want, everyone is tired of legends. Nowadays we have to be real fighters that step in the ring and fight. Results don’t matter. That’s a lot of people defaming Royce Gracie (Pictures), but fuck off — he had the balls. Hughes is a current champion, a top fighter, and despite this Royce fought him. After this I became a bigger Royce fan. He doesn’t live like a legend. He does his job. He is a honorable man, a guy to be admired. So I think this is what my fans wants from me; they wanna see me facing bigger and better fighters. Is this hard? I say this is the hardest. Today, for example, I’m in pain all over my body. I’m tired, just came home, hard working. But that’s it. If someone wants to have fans, have a name, he must fight for it.
Sherdog.com: Will you defend your title this year?
Silva: Maybe in December. But it will depend on my performance in this Grand Prix. This tournament is a good thing for me. Everybody is expecting a great show from me, for sure, but I’m maybe the underdog because I will face bigger guys. So it is their responsibility, not mine. I will be confident and I think I can show my game. But I hope to defend my title because I’d like to face guys in my weight class too.
Sherdog.com: Your number-one contender seems to be Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Pictures).
Silva: Yes, if he beats Shogun. “Minotoro” is a tough guy. I must be prepared to face him. He is winning a lot, doing a great job, and he is a good fighter.
Sherdog.com: Evangelista “Cyborg” will make his debut in PRIDE’s next event. What you’re expecting from him?
Silva: “Cyborg” is training with Alejarra and is surprising us. He has great determination. I have a private gym on my house and he comes here everyday. He knows that’s the biggest chance of his career and I always knew that he would fight in PRIDE. For him, this opportunity is the best goal ever. I’m glad for him, he deserves it. This will be the fourth or fifth fight in this year and he deserves respect. He does his job.
Sherdog.com: The Grand Prix winner will probably face Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures) in New Year’s Eve. You are one of the contenders. What do you think about that?
Silva: It’s like I said once. Nobody wants to face Fedor, but if this has to be, let it be. He is the man to be defeated. No one could do a great job against him until today. Fujita hit him hard but he was not knocked out. So I think he is the main man today. I respect him but if I have to fight him I will. If someday I say I don’t wanna fight a guy, no matter who he is, I will retire. This will be the end of my career.
Sherdog.com: To finish this interview, leave a message to everyone who accesses Sherdog.com.
Silva: I would like to say I’m glad to talk to the Americans. I know I have fans on there. I hope to fight in the U.S. very soon because PRIDE said they will promote an event in America and I’d like to fight there. I was in Vegas to watch UFC and a lot of people came to talk to me. That made me happy because everyone was nice with me. I wish to thank everybody who is shopping in my Web page. I’m doing a lot of sales to USA and the guys there are buying a lot of my products. For those ones who want to be a fighter: choose a good gym that can put you in the right way of fighting. Work hard, because the beginning is difficult but works because the events are popping out all over the planet bringing better fighters. So, if you’re having hard times, work harder, because you will be rewarded. If you are a hard worker, if you have a good head, and a good team and the eye of the tiger, you will become a professional fighter. God bless you all, a big hug to everybody and I will see you soon.