The end of Wanderlei Silva's storied career has been rumored to be coming for some time now.
UFC president Dana White has addressed the matter publicly on multiple occasions, and a rough patch where the MMA legend has found victory in only three of his last 10 showings has only served to strengthen the case for Silva's retirement. But when the topic is brought to Silva's attention, the 36-year-old former middleweight juggernaut insists he has plenty of battles left in him.
While "The Axe Murderer" will continue to press on for the time being, the question still lingers as to just how much the Brazilian's body can handle.
For 17 years, Silva has given everything he's had to the sport of mixed martial arts. The former Chute Boxe wrecking machine has spent his entire career trading punches, elbows and knees at all costs, leaving behind a highlight reel of violence that allowed him to achieve a level of success for fighters past, present and future to envy.
There is no doubting Silva's heart to fight, but in a sport as physically unforgiving as mixed martial arts, time becomes a factor on a multitude of levels. Nevertheless, the decision to walk away is Silva's to make, at least for the time being anyway, and he has no plans of hanging up the four-ounce gloves anytime soon.
Then again, the status of Silva's career could take a drastic turn this weekend in Tokyo, Japan. The former Pride champion squares off with war hero turned mixed martial artist Brian Stann in the main event of UFC on Fuel TV 8 in a bout that comes at a crucial time in the careers of both men.
The "All-American" is looking to regain traction in his career since falling out of title contention this past September, and Silva is fighting to see another day under the UFC banner. The potential circumstances at hand would be enough to rattle even the most seasoned fighter, but Silva is at ease heading into this weekend's showdown. The Team Wand leader has prepared for the battle ahead, and with the fight coming in the country where his legacy was built, Silva has all the motivation he needs to go after the victory.
"I am very happy right now in my career," Silva told Bleacher Report. "I'm so happy to be fighting in Japan and being in the headline fight at the event. This moment has been good to me and my career right now. It's great being able to fight in Japan again. It's a great opportunity for me to show how I fight in front of some of my biggest fans. I will do my very best to win this fight."
While the Brazilian powerhouse built his reputation by steamrolling the opposition with a chaotic blitzing-style attack, recent performances have shown an increased patience in Silva's game. Rather than rush across the cage and throw caution to the wind, the Las Vegas transplant is choosing to use a more measured approach.
"I've changed some things up now because it only takes one punch to change a fight," Silva said. "You have to be careful with your opponent. Things could be going well in the moment for you, but one punch could change everything about the fight."
The upcoming tilt between Silva and Stann features two men with the proven ability to end a fight with one clean shot. In addition to their respective power, both fighters posses strengths in all areas of the mixed martial arts game, but Silva believes the winner of the bout will ultimately be determined in the striking department.
"[Stann] is a compete fighter," Silva said. "He's good in the stand-up like me and that is where I like to fight. He is really good, and I'm looking forward to the fight.
"I know one fighter is going down and it won't be me. I am going in there to beat my opponent. He is experienced, and is a good guy, but a fight is a fight. I am there to win and knock him out."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.