Antonio Silva doesn’t feel any pressure going into a fight with the best heavyweight kickboxer in the world in China.
“Bigfoot" will take on Glory heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven at the Guangzhou gymnasium Saturday, and has made some changes in training ahead of his first experience inside a kickboxing ring.
The former UFC heavyweight title contender moved to Brasilia, Brazil, to train for four weeks with Glory striker Guto Inocente and his father Carlos. After a couple of weeks at American Top Team in Florida, Silva flew to China for one of the biggest challenges of his career.
"I want to get there and put on a good fight,” Silva told MMA Fighting. "I only signed a one-fight deal with Glory, so I plan on putting on a good performance and maybe sign for more fights. I always wanted to compete in kickboxing. I started training karate when I was 5 until I was 17, when I started to train other martial arts, so I always wanted to compete in stand-up fights.”
The Brazilian heavyweight fought twice under the K-1 Hero’s banner in 2006, defeating Tom Erikson and Georgy Kaysinov by first-round knockout, but never got the chance to actually enter a kickboxing match inside the K-1 ring.
"I remember when I start fighting in Japan in 2006, K-1 was the biggest kickboxing promotion, and I asked my manager Alex (Davis) back then to try to get me a fight there, but unfortunately I never had that opportunity,” he said. "I’m having this opportunity now. I never picked opponents, my wins and losses were against big names, and I always fought the best no matter what.
“Glory offered me the champion, a superstar, and he deserves a lot of respect. Hats off to him. It’s a big challenge, and I have no responsibility. He has the responsibility because this is his sport and he’s the champion. I have no pressure on me."
Verhoeven holds an impressive 51-10-1 record in kickboxing with 14 knockout wins, and won his last 13 bouts under the Glory banner.
"Rico has the responsibility. Rico has the obligation to win,” “Bigfoot" said. "He can’t blink or make mistakes. One hand can change everything. This is a dream come true to me. I’ll do my best and put on a good fight."
"My hands are heavy and sharp, and I know that it will give him some trouble when they connect. He will get rocked,” he continued. "I’ve talked to some people that trained with him or fought him, like Anderson ‘Braddock' (Silva), and they told me he has heavy kicks. His hands are not that heavy, but his legs are. My strategy is ready, and if one or two of my punches land he will definitely feel it.”
The main event is weighed-in! @RicoVerhoeven vs @BigfootSilva LIVE AND FREE tomorrow on #UFCFIGHTPASS! @GLORY_WS #GLORY46 pic.twitter.com/T8rEFCzoCW— UFC Fight Pass (@UFCFightPass) October 13, 2017
The Glory portion with Verhoeven-Silva, called Glory 46 SuperFight Series, will be streamed live on UFC Fight Pass, starting at 6 a.m. ET. The portion after that (Glory 46 China) airs on ESPN3 at 9 a.m. ET.
The decision to book this heavyweight contest was criticized by fans and media, especially since it’s “Bigfoot's" kickboxing debut and he has been knocked out nine times since 2011 — Silva only won three of his last 14 MMA fights.
"I’m not doing this for the money, I’m doing this because I love the sport and always wanted to compete in kickboxing,” Silva said. "Since the K-1 days, when they had Mark Hunt, Semmy Schilt, Hong-man Choi, I always wanted to compete there. I’m doing this for love, not for money.
"Everybody needs money, of course. I have daughters and parents who depend on me, but I’m doing this for love. I’m making less than half of what I make in Russia, so it’s not only about money. I accepted it for the challenge.”
With three bouts left in his contract with Fight Nights Global, Silva hopes to fight MMA in Russia for a long time.
"I’m very happy to be where I am today,” he said. "The UFC was a good platform for me, it's the biggest company in the world, but I’m happy in Russia. After winning my next three fights, I hope to re-sign with them. I have no plans to return to the UFC.
"The UFC is good for fighters that are starting their careers because all the media attention you get, but for fighters who are competing for a long time, like (Alistair) Overeem and (Fabricio) Werdum, I don’t think they are financially valued as much as they deserved in the UFC.
"I love the people who work in the UFC, they always treated me well, but I don’t think about coming back. What I want is to stay in Russia and get more fights in Glory."