He Wanted To Kill A Trainer, He Worked At McDonald's. Anderson Silva Has Become One Of The Best Fighters Of All Time
Anderson Silva experienced heavy losses in the last years of his career. Despite this, he ranks among the best fighters in the world.
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For some, MMA is just a sport, but for the Brazilian fighter Anderson Silva, fighting in a cage represents the meaning of life and a way out of poverty. Although he had nothing as a child and his prospects were bleak, thanks to immense talent and diligence, he eventually made an indelible mark in the history of mixed martial arts, and now belongs to the greatest legends of the UFC.
He experienced great highs, but also hard falls, and the history of MMA will remember him as one of the most famous names. Even UFC boss Dana White himself called him one of the best fighters of all time.
However, there was not much missing and everything could have been completely different. There was a time when Anderson Silva was deciding whether to give a chance to a career in MMA or go back to work at McDonald's. He also almost ended up behind bars when, after an argument with his coach, he armed himself with a shotgun and headed to his home to settle scores with him. This is his story.
Name: Anderson da Silva
Score: 34:11 (1 NC)
Nickname: The Spider
Height: 188 cm
Weight: Middleweight (84kg), Light Heavyweight (93kg)
Arm span: 77 inches/195.5 cm
He was penniless and pulled a shotgun on a coach
Anderson Silva was born on April 14, 1975 and grew up in a slum in São Paulo. He liked martial arts, but the family did not have the money to pay for his training. That's why he started training by himself on the street.
“When I started, jiu-jitsu in Brazil was only available to the elite and there was a widespread prejudice against poor kids. So I had to learn by myself. Some neighbors started doing jiu-jitsu, so I started watching them and then joined them. It was no organised training, but it was better than nothing," Anderson Silva described the rough beginnings.
Later, when his parents could afford to pay for his son's lessons, 12-year-old Anderson Silva started attending first taekwondo, later capoeira, and at the age of sixteen he switched to Thai boxing. According to official statistics, he had his first match in MMA, which later made him famous, at the age of twenty-two. At first he fought in the welterweight division (77 kg), i.e. one lower than middleweight (84 kg), which later became his primary division.
In the early days, Anderson Silva replaced went through smaller organisations, such as Meca or Shooto, in which he collected his first successes. He later moved to the better known (and now defunct) organization PRIDE. Despite his talent, he was unable to make a living from martial arts in the first years of his career. Therefore, he worked, for example, in the fast food chain McDonald's to earn a living (the funny fact is that later Burger King began to generously sponsor him).
There is one crazy story from the early days of Silva's career that illustrates the desperate situation the young fighter was in. For a certain part of his life, his main side income was training jiu-jitsu at the Chute Boxe club, where he trained himself. But head coach Rafael Cordeiro no longer wanted him to lead the lessons, leading to a wild argument between the two men that culminated in Cordeiro slapping the young Silva.
But it didn't end there. Furious, Silva got a shotgun, went to his trainer's apartment with two other cronies, and waited for him to come home to get revenge. However, Silva's companions apparently became nervous on the spot and fortunately talked the disgraced fighter out of his plans to shoot the trainer. Silva obeyed and left the place.
Today, he and Rafael Cordeiro are good friends, but one bad decision was all it took for Anderson Silva to end up behind bars instead of a future star career in MMA. "It was a phase of life when I had nothing, only a gift from God that gave me the opportunity to conduct lessons, and I almost did a big stupidity," recalled the wrestler, who spoke about the incident in his biography.
He wanted to go back to McDonald's
Fortunately, there was another important man in the background behind the fighter - Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira. Without his guidance, Anderson Silva's life would probably have gone in a very different direction and the fighter would never have reached the highest peaks. The fighter's manager, Ed Soares, described in more detail how fundamental an influence Nogueira had on Anderson Silva.
“(Nogueira) is always the first to offer a helping hand. (…) He did a lot for Anderson as well. If it wasn't for Nogueira, who knows if Anderson Silva would be who he is today. He was the one who told him to keep fighting. Anderson was going to quit fighting and go back to work at McDonald's," Soares described. But Nogueira convinced Anderson Silva not to throw away his immense talent and helped him take his professional career to a new level.
Not long after changing the training stable, Anderson Silva replaced several other organizations. For example, he also appeared in the British Cage Rage, which was essential for his development and where he defeated, for example, Lee Murray. Silva won a total of four matches in Cage Rage, three of which he finished before the limit.
The UFC has found a new king
A new chapter in the fighter's career began in 2006, when he received an offer from the world's largest MMA organization, the UFC. And here he managed his debut perfectly - he finished his opponent Chris Leben, who was undefeated in the UFC, within the first minute with a series of accurate punches followed by a hard knee.
In his very first fight in the UFC, Anderson Silva earned a decent reputation and confirmed that his court discipline is mainly stance fighting. His long arms with a span of over 190 centimeters, unpredictable fighting style, movement and accuracy of strikes are weapons that many opponents could not find an answer to for a long time. Even then middleweight champion Rich Franklin, who became Silva's next opponent, could not find it.
Anderson Silva fought for the championship belt in October 2006 and even then he did not have a long match. Silva delivered several knees to Franklin's ribs in the clinch and then broke his nose with another knee to the face. When the champion fell to the ground, the referee quickly stopped the fight and suddenly the UFC middleweight division had a new champion. Not even three minutes had passed on the timer.
It was obvious that a new king had sat on the middleweight throne and it would be an almost superhuman task to dethrone him. With each of his subsequent matches and successful title defenses, Anderson Silva has shown how immense talent he has harnessed and finished his opponents as if on a treadmill. The vast majority ended at the champion's feet.
Longest reigning champion
During his reign, Anderson Silva also set several records that no one has yet broken - for example, he is the holder of the largest number of wins in a row (16 victories in a row in the UFC) and to this day he also holds the title of the longest reigning UFC champion (he held the title for incredible 2457 days).
During this time, he defended his title ten times and had a number of exhibition performances to his credit, which continue to amaze even years later. Undoubtedly, among his most eye-catching fights is his overwhelming dominance over Forrest Griffin, whom he knocked out in the very first round. Hands hanging by the waist, sensational head movement, immense transfer of blows and an exhibition knockout in three and a half minutes. This is what one man show looked like from one of the greatest champions during his fifth title defense.
It was his fun and unconventional fighting style that led fans to believe that Anderson Silva was nicknamed "The Spider" for many years, but this is not the case. They attributed it to his long limbs and peculiar movement, but as the fighter revealed, he did not choose this nickname by himself and it was a t-shirt with Spider-Man, his favorite superhero, which he once wore before one of his fights.
“I was wearing a Spider-Man t-shirt before the game and when the announcer came up to me she said I looked like him. Then when I came to the ring, to my surprise she said: 'Anderson Silva, the Brazilian Spider-Man,' " the wrestler explained the origin of his nickname, which he later adopted as his own.
Among other things, a look at the detailed statistics published by the organization is also interesting. According to official UFC data, Anderson Silva has landed 1,282 significant strikes out of 2,084 attempts (62 percent accuracy) and ranks second in the most knockdowns (18), again proving his dangerous stance. It's no wonder that at the height of his performance, well-known commentator Joe Rogan described him as a "grandmaster" who "does things that others think are impossible".
A crushing loss and a horror injury
But everything comes to an end, and that also applies to UFC champions. Anderson Silva's record winning streak was ended in 2013 by Chris Weidman. Apparently, the overconfident Brazilian wanted to mock his opponent during the fight by pretending to be shaken and his legs were breaking, but Weidman promptly punished him with a combination of hooks, after which the limp Silva found himself on the ground and the opponent ended him uncompromisingly.
The world was in shock. No one imagined the end of the winning era of one of the greatest UFC champions like this even in their wildest dreams. The fans wanted to see a rematch and so did the organizations, so a second showdown between the new champion and the fallen king was scheduled for the end of the year. But this time, to everyone's surprise, an even bigger shock came.
The main event of the night and a rematch that fans have been waiting months for ended with one of the most gruesome injuries MMA fans have ever seen. Anderson Silva hit his opponent with a low kick in the second round, which Wiedman blocked, and the Brazilian broke the tibia and fibula in his left leg. The shocked arena fell silent and the warrior writhing in pain immediately headed for the operating table.
Chris Weidman explained after the tournament that he focused on Anderson Silva's dangerous kicks in preparation and deliberately tried to block them with his knee, which is probably why Silva broke his leg on him (coincidentally, the same thing happened to himself a few years later Chris Weidman, who broke his tibia and fibula in an almost identical way in a match with Uriah Hall).
Thirteen months have passed since the horrific leg break and Anderson Silva is back in the cage. After such a terrifying injury, it was a relatively early return, but it brought with it new problems.
The steroid cases and the clearing of the name
At the end of January 2015, Anderson Silva faced the legendary Nick Diaz, whom he defeated on points after five rounds, however, this result was later annulled and the fight was declared a no contest. As it turned out, the staff of the Nevada State Athletic Commission found traces of two anabolic steroids in Anderson Silva's urine samples taken a few weeks before the match. Other prohibited substances were also found in Anderson Silva's body in the tests carried out after the match, he had a positive test for the drugs oxazepam and temazepam, among others.
The former middleweight champion defended himself by saying that he took a sexual performance enhancement drug that a friend allegedly gave him after a visit to Thailand. The composition of this drug should have included the anabolic steroid drostanolone. But he could not explain the presence of another steroid in the body. In the end, the Commission granted him a one-year ban from fighting (from the date of the aforementioned fight) and the obligation to pay a financial penalty of $380,000 - he had to give up his entire $200,000 win bonus, plus a 30 percent fine ($180,000) from his base pay of $600,000.
After two losses in a row, injury and punishment for the use of illegal substances, Anderson Silva was probably experiencing the darkest period of his career so far. And he did not get to return to prominence in the following years either.
During his expected comeback in 2016, Michael Bisping welcomed him to the octagon, and even this match was not without a controversial moment. When Bisping signaled to the referee in the third round that he had lost his mouthguard, Silva sent him to the ground with a knee and began to celebrate the supposed victory. However, the referee warned him that the fight was not over, and after five rounds, Silva finally lost by unanimous decision.
Then, in the middle of the same year, his losing streak was extended to four defeats in a row by the then light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, against whom Silva faced as a substitute at the last minute.
Silva broke his unlucky losing streak in early 2017 when he beat Derek Brunson after three rounds, but his career soon suffered further complications. He was scheduled to face Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 212 midway through the year, but his opponent was pulled from the fight after testing positive for marijuana. Their clash was then transferred to the UFC Fight Night 122 tournament in November, but this time it was Silva who failed tests for banned substances.
USADA (American Anti-Doping Agency) found the anabolic steroid methyltestosterone and the diuretic drug in Silva's body. However, the fighter insisted on his innocence, saying that he did not knowingly use any banned substance. A several-month investigation followed, at the end of which the commission's staff found the former champion in the right. As it turned out, the aforementioned substances got into the fighter's body through a contaminated, legally available food supplement.
Anderson Silva did not hide his enthusiasm after the gratifying result. "The last nine months have been extremely challenging. I felt like everything I had worked for was dying and my future was in jeopardy. I knew in my heart that I had done nothing wrong and I fully cooperated with USADA to prove it. (…) I am happy that my name has been cleared and my credibility has been restored," he told ESPN.
The end of the UFC and the transition to boxing
However, he did not settle down in the winning seat again. In the UFC, Anderson Silva fought three more fights - against Israel Adesanya, Jared Canonnier and Uriah Hall - all of which he lost. In his last seven years in the UFC, Anderson Silva has just one win and seven losses. But it was the last one with Uriah Hall, after which the head of the UFC organization Dana White definitively said that the fans will not see the famous Brazilian and former champion fight again.
“I shouldn't have let him fight tonight, but out of respect for him - he's a legend of this sport and this company - I did something I didn't agree with. I knew I was right and it was confirmed. Anderson Silva should never fight again," White said after the tournament, while also expressing disappointment at the lack of activity from both fighters in the match.
"I don't want to forbid him, he's a grown man and he can do what he wants. He has (according to the contract, editor's note) one more match with us. But I will never allow him to wrestle here again. I want him to end his career and I hope when he goes back to his family he tells them the same thing. I'm in a very difficult position because I really care about him. He is someone who has been with us for many years. He's a legend and I don't want to spit on him in any way. But he is already 46 years old (he was actually 45 years old, editor's note). Unless a person is trying to save his life or the life of his family, no one should be fighting at the age of 46," continued the head of the UFC.
Less than a month later, the UFC terminated Anderson Silva's contract, and the Brazilian became a free fighter after a fourteen-year career in the world's biggest league.
But he didn't hang his gloves on a nail. Rather, he just changed them to boxers. Anderson Silva decided to exchange the MMA cage for a professional boxing ring, in which he fought a few times in the distant past. And he is getting decent success in it. First, in June 2021, he outboxed former WBC champion Julio César Chávez Jr. in eight rounds. and then knocked out former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz in the first round in November.
Anderson Silva celebrated his 47th birthday this year, but it still doesn't look like he's ready to say goodbye to combat sports. There was even speculation about his possible match with YouTuber and boxer Jake Paul, who told the former UFC champion that he would beat him and one of the best boxers in history, Floyd Mayweather, in one evening. But the coach of the Brazilian laughed at these words, saying that the YouTuber would "pay dearly" in such a match.
Whatever the future holds for Anderson Silva, no one can take away his past successes. He entered the hearts of fans as one of the best fighters in history and his place on the pedestal belongs right next to the names of greats such as Jon Jones or Georges St-Pierre. With his life story, he also proved that thanks to the right decisions, diligence and a bit of luck, it is possible to work your way up from bad living conditions to the very top of the sports world.
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