Fabricio Camoes and Jim Miller will clash in a lightweight bout at UFC 168 while Anderson Silva looks to win the middleweight championship back in the main event facing Chris Weidman on Dec. 28. However, many fans don’t know that Silva’s first tournament win happened on June 25, 1997, when he fought Camoes in Brazil.
Camoes, an 18-year-old jiu-jitsu purple belt under Royler Gracie, was invited to make his MMA debut in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, at Brazilian Freestyle Circuit. Silva would also have his first experience in MMA that same night, and they eventually met in the 176-pound tournament final.
"We traveled 17 hours by bus to get there," Camoes told MMAFighting.com. "We got there on Thursday, two days before the fight. We had no preparation to be honest, we basically used what we had from our jiu-jitsu background."
The fights were contested in 10-minute rounds, and Camoes needed less than five minutes to finish his first opponent. Silva finished his first bout in less than two minutes.
"I beat Eliezer Ninja in the first fight, and Anderson defeated Raimundo Pinheiro in the other semifinal," he said. "In the final, with five minutes left in the third round, I couldn’t stand back up after so many kicks so the referee stopped the fight. It was a great experience for me, I would do it again the same way.
"When I see him finishing guys in three minutes and remember that I fought him for 25 minutes, I feel good about it. The experience I gained with that fight I use in all my fights. What could be worse than making your MMA debut against the best of all time? I knew nothing about him at that time, really. I had no idea what I was going to face."
UFC lightweight Cristiano Marcello also made his MMA debut that night, stopping Claudio de Souza and Ray Peres to win the 155-pound tournament, and he helped Camoes after the night was over.
"There was no money, no glamor back then," Camoes said. "If you were to fight, you were there because you love it. The tournament winner got paid 500 dollars, the runner-up received 250 dollars, and the fighters who lost in the semifinals didn’t get paid at all.
"Cristiano Marcello won his tournament and I lost in the final, so he helped me to pay the flight back home. No way I would take a 17-hour travel on a bus after a 25-minute fight with Anderson Silva. We spent all the money to pay for the flight tickets. One win, one loss and no money in the pocket, but a lot of experience. It was positive in the end, and now I can say that I fought Anderson Silva even though I lost."
Sixteen years later, Camoes and Silva are back in the same card once again, and the lightweight is confident that the former middleweight champion will bring the title back to his country.
"Lightning never strikes twice in the same place," he said. "Anderson Silva will show why he’s the best this time. He has all the tools to win this fight. He’s the best of all time, he evolves a lot after every fight and it won’t be different this time."