B/R Exclusive: Anderson Silva on His MMA Career and His Foray into Boxing
Anderson Silva (34-11 MMA, 1-1 boxing) is wrapping his hands for an imminent sparring session at his Spider Kick gym in Los Angeles. Contrary to the 46-year-old Brazilian's reputation as one of the most lethal strikers in MMA history, the session will not include any of the kicks, elbows or knee strikes that made him famous.
Instead, Silva will be focused exclusively on his hands—the lone weapons he'll brandish in his June 19 boxing match with the amply more experienced Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (52-5-1 boxing).
It's a momentous challenge for Silva, who, despite being a 10-time UFC middleweight champion, is a tough 1-7 across the eight fights that bookended his time with the MMA promotion. He has not boxed since a 2005 knockout win over a complete unknown in Julio Cesar De Jesus. Yet the fight with Chavez has simultaneously generated the curiosity of the masses who wonder if Silva—one of the flashiest fighters in combat sports history—might have one more miracle left up his sleeve.
B/R caught up with the legend ahead of this compelling boxing match with Chavez, discussing his past in MMA, his future in boxing and plenty more.
A Legendary Legacy
Ask any fan to name the greatest fighter of all time, and there's a good chance the name they conjure up will be Silva's. It's that enduring legacy that makes his upcoming boxing match with the significantly more experienced Chavez—a gargantuan favorite leading into the contest—a saleable attraction.
Despite all his accomplishments and accolades, however, Silva has fallen on hard times. He's won just once in his last eight bouts—a skid that ultimately led to his departure from the UFC, which was unfathomable at the height of his dominance.
"I don't have anything to say about the UFC," Silva told B/R of his exit from the UFC. "I did my work inside the company, and the company gave me support, but this part is done.
"I try to focus on my future and everything I like to do right now, but I am happy with all the success I had in the UFC."
While Silva is focused on his future, he's proud of the legacy he built during his time in MMA—a legacy cemented by wins over the likes of Rich Franklin (twice), Dan Henderson, Forrest Griffin, Demian Maia, Chael Sonnen (twice), Vitor Belfort and Derek Brunson.
"I have a lot of memories inside the ring, inside the cage," he said. "Fighting in Japan, when I won my first title belt at Cage Warriors in London, fighting in the UFC. I'm so happy and lucky too, because I've fought in different parts of the world for different fans."
Silva's biggest point of pride, however, is the way he's been able to connect with his fans.
"Legacy is not about what you do right now, it's [about what] you put inside the heart and the minds of people, and I believe people have good image and good memories of me, and that, I believe, is my legacy."
A New Challenge
They call Muay Thai "The Art of Eight Limbs"—a reference to the fact that competitors can strike with their hands, shins, knees and elbows. Silva, a Muay Thai stylist through-and-through, is fittingly nicknamed "The Spider."
What happens when a spider is reduced to just two of its eight limbs? Silva aims to find out when he steps through the ropes to battle Chavez this Saturday in Mexico.
"You know, in this moment of my life, I'm trying to do things that make me feel happy," Silva said. "Fighting is my life. I love fighting. I love challenging myself—I like to learn—and this is a good challenge for me. Everything's new. I'm very lucky. I try to enjoy the whole moment. I come to the gym, and I try to absorb the whole energy I have with my trainers, my coach."
While Silva is understandably excited to fight a name like Chavez—who has previously battled the likes of Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs—he admits the offer to do so came as a bit of a surprise. Yet there was no hesitation to accept, particularly considering the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.—Jr.'s father—will battle Hector Camacho Jr. in the card's headlining attraction.
"I'm very happy [about the fight]," he said. "It's an honor for me to fight in Mexico, for my fans in Mexico, for my fans all over the world—on the same card as the legend Julio Cesar Chavez."
Since the fight was booked, Silva has been working hard on his boxing. He admits the transition has been challenging but is confident things will go his way on the night.
"[Training for a boxing match] is completely different [than preparing for an MMA fight]. You don't train jiu-jitsu, you don't train wrestling, you don't train Muay Thai, it's only boxing," he said. "I'm happy because every single day I'm surprised because I learned something new. I feel lucky to have this opportunity.
"Fights are tough to talk about," he added. "When you go inside the ring, everything changes, but I've prepared for war. I've prepared my mind and my coach has prepared me for good boxing. I'm going to do my best. I trained to win.
"You can do anything in your life when you love it. It doesn't matter if you win or lose. If you love something, just do it. That's why I work hard and enjoy myself every day in the gym."
If Silva pulls off the upset against Chavez, he isn't sure what his next move will be, but he is open to more fights inside the boxing ring—perhaps with legends of his vintage like Roy Jones Jr. and Mike Tyson.
"I knew it—you don't like me," Silva joked at the suggestion of a Mike Tyson fight. "Why do you want Mike Tyson to kick my ass, bro?
"Everything is possible," he added, his smile straightening. "My focus is only on this fight. We'll see what happens, and hopefully I can have another fight soon."
A Strange Time for the Sweet Science
Silva returns to "The Sweet Science" at an interesting time.
The headlines are currently being dominated by Jake and Logan Paul—a pair of YouTubing brothers who have been competing in big-ticket fights with the likes of Ben Askren and Floyd Mayweather Jr., all while generating headlines for issues ranging from tabloid fodder to allegations of serious crimes.
While those issues and their forays into big-money boxing fights with little in the way of experience or training have earned the Paul brothers many critics, Silva is not among them.
"They're so smart," Silva said. "They're good, smart guys. A lot of people are talking about these guys, but I know them both. I know how much heart both guys have. They're good people and they help a lot of people—people don't know that. Logan and Jake don't like to talk about that, but these are good guys."
Silva also has no bones with the parade of mixed martial artists transitioning over to boxing for crossover fights that often encroach on circuses.
"It's good," he said. "It's a new show, it's a new challenge for everybody. It's a new competition. It's good entertainment for everybody. I'm so happy because boxing has opened the door for every single person and every single athlete to do something special. It's about the show. The people like to see the show."
Despite the frequent concerning stories around the Paul brothers—the most severe being two sexual assault allegations against Jake Paul—their boxing careers, and boxing in general, appear to be thriving. The sport is currently dominated by a number of unbelievably talented pugilists, and Silva is excited to count himself among them.
"Right now, I have different [favorites], but Canelo [Alvarez] is a beast," he said. "I love Canelo. I'm a big fan. I watch him a lot.
"[I also like] GGG [Gennady Golovkin], [Manny] Pacquiao—he's my friend. I'm so happy when I see these guys fighting and I'm happy to be doing something inside this sport too, because I have so much respect for this sport."