LAS VEGAS - At the start of UFC 200 fight week, Anderson Silva thought he was traveling to Las Vegas to help induct his mentor Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira into the UFC Hall of Fame. But by Thursday night, Silva was a full-fledged part of the show.
The UFC announced that Silva is scheduled to fight light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier in a three-round non-title bout on the main card of UFC 200. Silva replaces the spot vacated by Jon Jones, who was yanked off the card due to a random June 16 drug test that was flagged by USADA for two banned substances.
Silva effectively enters the bout on less than two days' notice, and does so just seven weeks after undergoing surgery to remove his gall bladder in mid-May. But the legendary ex-middleweight champion has never been one to back down from a challenge, and even at age 41, Silva couldn't resist the opportunity to fight a name like Cormier on a blockbuster event like UFC 200.
"I think I'm in good shape and I don't want Daniel or anyone else to think that I'm underestimating him or coming in here to try to challenge a champion," Silva said through a translator on Thursday. "I'm not doing any of that. I'm here to challenge myself, and I think that I haven't trained in a few months, but I think that I'm in good condition to go in there and put on a good fight."
Silva admitted that he "wasn't really training that hard" before accepting the fight opposite Cormier, but noted that he had a sparring session on Wednesday and was "ready for war."
Aside from proving an opportunity for Cormier to get paid, the fight at UFC 200 also represents a chance for Silva to make up for the disappointment he felt in May, when he was forced to withdraw from UFC 198 due to issues with his gall bladder just days before the landmark stadium show was held in his hometown of Curitiba, Brazil.
"The day before I was supposed to go travel to fight, I was all alone at home and I thought I was going to die when I started feeling sick," Silva said. "I was something that I didn't expect to happen, and I had to back out from the fight in Curitiba, which is something that I've always really wanted. But this is a new beginning for me. A lot of people think that I'm towards my end, but I think that this is a new beginning for me."
UFC President Dana White said that Silva contacted him immediately after news broke of Jones' removal from UFC 200, however it wasn't until Thursday night that Silva cleared his medicals and the fight could be made official. Soon after, Las Vegas oddsmakers opened Silva as a six-to-one betting underdog against Cormier, marking the first time in a decade that Silva will go into a fight as anything but the favorite.
But still, after all of the crazy things that have happened in 2016 in mixed martial arts, White wouldn't be surprised by any outcome on July 9.
"Let me tell you what, we just walked in here from a fight that just ended in the first round," White said. "The way that [Eddie Alvarez] just finished (Rafael dos Anjos), anything can happen in this sport. (Michael) Bisping came in on 11 days and knocked out Luke Rockhold, who destroyed him in their first fight. Anything is possible in a fight."
White said the UFC attempted to book the Cormier-Silva fight for five rounds, however Silva pushed to make it a three-round non-title affair. Rather than hunting for Cormier's light heavyweight title, Silva said he instead has his eyes on a rematch against UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping, and an upset over Cormier could very well get "The Spider" what he wants.
"Believe me, we talked about [making the fight five rounds]," White said. "If Anderson comes in and would stop Cormier in the first three rounds, I mean, it would be for the title. But Anderson's philosophy was, ‘listen, if I beat Daniel Cormier, people are going know I'm the guy anyway.' But, it's a little bit better getting that belt. We have to agree to disagree on that one. He wants to fight three rounds. He's coming in and Anderson is giving Daniel the opportunity to fight, to make money, and to perform on UFC 200. So if Anderson wants two rounds, we'll give him two rounds."