Photo by Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
People keep asking Wanderlei Silva how many more fights he has left in him. As if he knows. As if his body and his career are like a cell phone battery, buzzing every so often to let him know he’s down to the final 20 percent, then the final ten.
"I feel good," he told MMA Fighting in a phone interview. "I train good. I go with the young guys I have here. I feel very good, but I train for one fight at a time. For how long? I don’t know, but the performance is going to tell. That will show whether I can still fight or not."
This has been Silva’s refrain for years now. After more than 15 years as a pro and nearly 50 fights to his credit, people keep looking at him like a car that’s just about to break down. Maybe the next one will be his last, they say. Or the next one. Or the one after that.
His opponent in the main event of UFC 147 is in a similar position. Rich Franklin says he can’t get through an interview without people asking when he’s going to retire, so he knows the end must be near. What he doesn’t know is what he’s going to do once his fighting days are done. Silva doesn’t have that problem, he said.
"I know what I’m going to do. I have other plans, other businesses. I have things to do. But I love to fight. I love this sport. I love it, as hard as [it] is sometimes."
And the way Silva fights, you better believe it can be hard. From his early days in the sport to the present, he fights like he has as little regard for his own body as he does for his opponent’s. You try doing that for 15 years and see if you don’t have trouble getting out of bed some mornings.
But no, Silva says. He feels fine. A little banged up some days, maybe, but never does he feel like he needs to quit, or like he just can’t make it into the gym. After all, he pointed out, he wasn’t the one who pulled out of this fight with an injury. It was Vitor Belfort who broke his hand and disappointed the Brazilian fans, he said.
"It’s a bad thing, because man, we sold 15,000 tickets over here," Silva said. "Everybody want[ed] to see this fight. ...When you have an important fight, you need to be careful with your training. You have to. I don’t know what the problem is."
The good news is, at least he still gets to fight. At least three months of training wasn’t for nothing. As a bonus, now he gets a chance to avenge his earlier decision loss to Franklin at UFC 99, and he also gets an opponent who will give him the style of fight he likes. Last time, the two combined for Fight of the Night.
"I hope we fight the same this time," Silva said. "The bonus check would come at a good time."
But will it be the last time? Silva won’t say, maybe because he can’t. Lately, his wins seem to prove to him that he still has what it takes, while his losses only motivate him to keep trying for one more win. People keep asking him when he’s going to go, and the only answer he can give is: not yet.
Maybe it’s fitting that he should be facing Franklin, who keeps giving the same answer to the same question. It’s not as if a win will vault either into immediate title contention. It’s also not as it either of them needs another title in order to consider his career a success. They could both quit whenever they want to and walk away with their heads held high. But then, neither of them wants to. They’re still having too much fun.
And besides, said Silva, he has some unfinished business with Belfort, and he’s not going to let a broken hand get in the way.
"I still want that fight with him. He can run, but one time we’re going to fight. It’s going to happen. I will wait for him."
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