Rafael Silva plans to make the most of his first appearance under the ONE Championship banner this weekend.
ONE will celebrate its 100th edition with a combo of two cards in Tokyo, Japan, that includes a few matches between Pancrase and Shooto champions. “Morcego,” who won and defended the Pancrase featherweight belt earlier this year, battles Shooto titleholder Shoko Sato in a three-round bout.
“Pancrase was a really cool promotion, but I wanted something bigger in every sense, bigger cards, bigger purses, and this opportunity came,” Silva told MMA Fighting. “I’ll do what I’ve always done everywhere I fought: I’ll slowly earn my space and then get to the top.”
Silva’s manager Marcelo Brigadeiro told MMA Fighting that the fighter is no longer under contract with Pancrase and has only signed a one-fight deal with ONE Championship for Saturday’s event. ONE seems interested in signing him to a multi-fight deal after Saturday, Brigadeiro said, but “we’ll test the market.”
“Morcego,” who once challenged Joe Warren on short notice for the Bellator title, loves having the opportunity to fight in Japan for the eighth time since 2016. He doesn’t really knows what this victory could mean for him in terms of contracts, but expects good things for the future.
Silva still has to get the job done inside the cage, and sees Sato as a good match-up style-wise.
“I always do the same thing and thank God it always works,” said Silva, 30-6 with 14 submission finishes in MMA and 8-1 since partying ways with Bellator in 2015. “He’s aggressive, experienced, and it won’t be an easy fight for me, but I’ll do what I always do. There’s no secret, I’m going there to submit him.
“I’ve watched some of his fights, the ones where he got submitted. He’s a tough guy, but I’ll make it happen. I have to create spaces. You also have to look at the guys he’s fought. I know what I can do. I have thousands of submissions against guys that are as good as or better than him.”
If he does win and lands a long term deal with ONE, “Morcego” loves the idea of facing ONE bantamweight king Bibiano Fernandes, a fellow submission specialist who puts his belt on the line against Kevin Belingon later that night at ONE Century.
“I’ve beaten a lot of tough guys in my career,” Silva said. “I have no rush. I have to get the job done in this first fight and then we’ll see what happens next. (Fernandes) has the same style I do, he trades a little bit and then go for takedowns and submissions, so that would be interesting.”