Claudio Silva makes his Octagon debut on Saturday, and he had a long road to get inside the cage at UFC Fight Night 37.
Born in Minas Gerais, Brazil, the middleweight never intended to fight MMA as a living. Silva competed in jiu-jitsu for years in Brazil, and his life changed when he visited London to compete at the European Open Jiu-Jitsu Championship for the first time.
"I competed from white to brown belt in jiu-jitsu in Brazil," Silva told MMAFighting.com. "I came to London to compete at the European and two friends invited me to live here.
"I didn’t speak English and had no sponsors in Brazil, so I decided to stay in London. I needed the money and eventually started fighting MMA. I didn’t want to work in a restaurant or something like that, so I decided to fight MMA."
He started his career as "Mineiro", but his first experience in a cage wasn’t as good as he wanted.
"My first fight should be a no-contest, but they disqualified me due to an illegal elbow," he said. "I was dominating the fight, but they disqualified me. In the second fight, I fought a guy who had 82 professional fights and won. They always put me in fights I was supposed to lose, but I always won in the first round."
Silva, who later changed his nickname to "Hannibal" because he "used to watch his movies and thought it would be cool to use his mask in a fight," never had an easy fight in his career. The 10 opponents he fought in MMA have, together, 408 professional fights, and that’s something Silva is proud of.
"Nobody wanted to fight me here in London," he said. "The promoters told me nobody accepted to fight me. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I couldn’t get a fight.
"I needed the money and wanted to test myself. I knew I was better than all of them, and my team don’t accept easy fights. They wouldn’t let me fight someone whose record isn’t better than mine. I see a lot of 10-0 guys who never fought good opponents, but that doesn’t happen at London Shootfighters."
Silva’s first opponent in the UFC will be Brad Scott (9-2), who’s 1-1 under with the UFC banner after a first-round submission win over Michael Kuiper, bouncing back in the win column following a decision loss to Robert Whittaker in his Octagon debut.
"He’s a tough opponent, and that’s the kind of competition I wanted for my UFC debut," "Hannibal" said. "There’s no easy fight in the UFC. It’s going to be a great fight.
"I’ll do whatever the fight requires me to do. If I can get the knockout, I will. Or I’ll submit him. Sometimes you want the knockout, but it’s not the best strategy in the fight. The best strategy is hit and don’t get hit."
Silva won’t have the crowd in his favor despite living in London for years, but he’s not bothered.
"I’m fighting a British fighter, so I don’t expect the crowd to cheer for me even if I lived here for years," he said. "My coach said they’ll root against me, even though some British fans told me they’ll cheer for me. I have some British students, so I’ll have some guys rooting for me. And it will be cool to fight against the crowd to ruin their party."