It's easy to forget that Wanderlei Silva is only 34 years old. After the wars he's been in, competing in over 40 pro fights over the course of a 14-year career, he seems to have the body (and the scar tissue) of a much older man. But as this oddly touching video documenting his recent knee surgery shows, he also has the wisdom of someone far beyond his mid-thirties.
The occasion of the surgery seems to bring out the reflective side of "The Axe Murderer." He thinks back to his childhood spent working in his parents' bar and his days as a young, poor fighter before making it big.
As Silva points out, "Who sees Wanderlei Silva today, with all the marketing, with a good gym and getting paid well to fight, they don't know the difficulties I went through. I went through a lot of hardships in my life."
Some of those hardships came when Silva was competing in vale tudo bouts in Brazil that were very nearly devoid of rules altogether, and a time when, as he puts it, Silva "worked hard with a lot of pain and injuries. I didn't have money for doctors or supplements."
It's hard not to connect those hardships, along with Silva's fighting style in general, with the somewhat premature physical struggles he's going through now.
Consider that between 2000 and early 2007, Silva fought almost exclusively in Pride. Not only was it the land of soccer kicks and head stomps, late-notice fights and one-night tournaments, it was also an employer that sometimes required Silva to fight well out of his natural weight class, such as when he went three grueling rounds with Mark Hunt in 2004, just two months after his second victory over "Rampage" Jackson.
Those exploits helped make Silva a legend in the MMA world, but they also too their toll. As he says before surgery, "In this profession, you hurt the body a little. It's normal. Part of the job."