clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

UFC 97: Thales Leites on Anderson Silva: 'The Biggest Fight of My Life'

There aren't many more difficult tasks than stepping into the Octagon with Anderson Silva, but Thales Leites thinks he's ready to do it.

Leites, who will fight Silva for the middlweight title on Saturday night at UFC 97, told me in an e-mail interview that he's heading into the fight feeling confident and completely prepared. Leites says he's in good shape, secure in his abilities, and ready to pull off what could be the biggest MMA upset of the year. The full interview is below.

Michael David Smith: Many people consider Anderson Silva the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Is that what you think?
Thales Leites: I think he is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. My opinion is Anderson Silva, B.J. Penn, Georges St. Pierre and Fedor Emelianenko.

You're a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt, and nine of your 14 wins came by submission. Considering that, and with Anderson being such a great stand-up fighter, is it safe to say you want to take the fight to the ground?
Not exactly. I will be ready to fight in all the situations, but everyone knows that my fight style is the ground game.

Your last fight was on the undercard at UFC 90, when you only needed a little over a minute to submit Drew McFedries. Anderson was in the main event on that card. Did you know at the time that if you won you'd get the next title shot?
No, I didn`t know at that moment, just in December they invited me to fight Anderson Silva for the title.

What has your training been like since your win over McFedries in October? Is there anything in particular you've been focusing on?
My training is going very well and I'm feeling very strong. I'm training twice every single day for this fight, and I'm working on everything, including a lot of Muay Thai, boxing, wrestling and jiu jitsu.

This is the first time we've had Brazilian vs. Brazilian for a UFC title. What does that mean to you?
It is a great pleasure. It means a lot to me. This fight is important because it's the first time we have a Brazilian vs. a Brazilian for a UFC title, I'm fighting against one of the living legends of MMA, one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in MMA history. It's the biggest opportunity of my life, the biggest fight of my life.

How popular is the UFC in Brazil? Are you recognized in public as a UFC fighter?
UFC is very popular in Brazil. A lot of people watch it and love it. Sometimes I'm recognized, sometimes people come to talk with me and tell me that they saw my fight on TV and they liked it, and they give me congratulations for the fight. Sometimes people ask for an autograph, and Brazilian fans send messages to my web site and my MySpace.

You've only lost one fight in your career, to Martin Kampmann. What did you learn from that one loss?
I learned a lot of things. I learned more from that loss than I learned from all my victories. After that loss I became more professional, I gave more attention to my training, my cardio, my focus.

What is your walking around weight, and how hard is it for you to get down to 185 pounds?
My walking around weight is 205. It is kind of boring cutting the weight. Nobody likes it, but we have to do it, and I'm used to it.

How many fights do you have left on your current UFC contract? Are you satisfied with how much the UFC is paying you?
I have five more fights and yes, I'm satisfied with how much the UFC pays me. I have no reason to complain. We made a deal and I'm very happy to be a UFC fighter.

What are your long-term goals in the sport? What do you hope you've accomplished when you're done in MMA?
I wish to keep fighting for a long time and when I'm done in MMA I will think about maybe becoming a coach.