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Erick Silva leaving celebrity distractions in the past, looking to become a better fighter

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Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

Erick Silva has decided to shake things up.

After fighting in the UFC welterweight division since 2011 and earning all of his six wins in spectacular fashion, the Brazilian fighter left Rio de Janeiro, where he trained alongside the likes of Ronaldo Souza and Rafael Cavalcante at X-Gym, to seek evolution in the United States.

Silva underwent elbow surgery after losing to Neil Magny in August, and now is flying from east coast to west coast to find the best training.

"Since I have to stay out for a while because of the injury, I was cleared from my physical therapy in Brazil and decided to come here to train my ground game," Silva told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, explaining why he flew to New York to train at Renzo Gracie’s gym.

"I’m here at Renzo’s for three weeks, and I will stay one more week here before going to California. Rafael Cordeiro is waiting for me there. I will stay there the rest of the year, and I plan on also working a technical evolution with Rafael."

Silva said he considered flying to Albuquerque to train with Greg Jackson in the past, but never did. This time though, he plans on staying in the United States for a long time.

"I plan on coming to New York all the time," he said. "I don’t know if I will be doing the same in California yet. I plan on staying more and training in the United States next year, at Kings MMA and here with John Danaher. He’s being very important, strategy-wise and on my ground game. I will return to New York in January and stay two more weeks here, and I will go from New York to California and come back."

Feeling more experienced now after 11 Octagon appearances, Silva hopes to fight again in March, and has two opponents in his mind.

"I don’t have anything set, but I would like to fight Jake Ellenberger or get a rematch with Dong Hyun Kim," he said, "because I’m is more mature now, more focused, going for new challenges, and the result would be completely different."

Kim, who finished Silva via second-round knockout in 2013, is scheduled to face Jorge Masvidal at UFC Fight Night 79 on Nov. 28, while Ellenberger, who also does part of his training camp at Kings MMA, takes on Tarec Saffiedine at UFC on FOX 18 in January.

"The difference is that I’m more mature now," Silva said. "When I entered the UFC I was a kid getting excited, a lot of new things going on in my life. It’s not like that now. I’ve been through good and bad moments, so I’m aware of what can and can’t happen, of what I want, and that makes me more responsible for the things I want and where I want to go."

By being more mature, Silva also means ignoring the distractions of being a celebrity in Brazil. Ever since he entered the UFC, Silva was considered by fans the future of the country in the welterweight division, adding more responsibility over his shoulders.

As he piled up wins and losses inside the cage, Silva also made headlines with celebrity websites hungry to find out about his love life, which included relationships with Octagon girl Camila Oliveira and famous Brazilian actress Grazi Massafera.

"It doesn’t affect me in a negative way. I don’t care much about it. But it bothers you because you end up getting an attention you don’t want," Silva said. "I don’t like when people talk about things I don’t want them to, instead of fighting. When you see yourself in a situation like this, you get scared, you think ‘why are they gossiping about me?’

"If I tell you it doesn’t affect me, I would be lying, because you get attention you don’t want, and even if you try to ignore it, you know it’s there. It’s complicated. Like you said, people see me as a celebrity. I don’t like that. I like doing my job as a good fighter. I know I have to do things outside the Octagon to get sponsors, but when your life gets that kind of attention you get a little upset."

The recent move from Rio de Janeiro to New York and California has also helped Silva escape that coverage, he admitted.

"In my head, I don’t see this as me running away. It’s not. I see this as me going for a technical evolution and new challenges. I’m not running away from Brazil. But that helps, of course," Silva said. "I walk around and I don’t need to worry about all of that part. If affects you a lot, but it’s not a concern."