One of the most ferocious MMA fighters in his prime, Wanderlei Silva never shied away from standing and trading strikes with his opponents, even when he was standing in front of heavyweights heavy-hitters like Mark Hunt and Mirko Cro Cop. More than a decade later, he seems to be paying the price.
In a long interview with Brazilian website PVT, Silva says that he has many concussion-like symptoms after competing in martial arts for 29 years, from his first steps in muay thai to vale-tudo and mixed martial arts fights.
“I was in a lecture about concussion and of the 10 symptoms the guy mentioned, I had eight,” Silva said. “The symptoms would be, for example, mood swings, getting angry very fast, forgetting some things, having difficulty sleeping.”
In fact, the 42-year-old fighter plans to donate his brain for research on concussions after he dies.
“I thought a lot about it and even tried to contact people to make this donation,” Silva said. “I have the most interested in donating, since I won’t be using it anyway [laughs]. This area is very important.”
Silva, who went 0-2 in his first couple of Bellator fights against Chael Sonnen and Quinton Jacksonin 2017 and 2018, says he only does one hard sparring session per week at Evolucao Thai in Brazil, but that wasn’t the case more than a decade ago, when he was the PRIDE middleweight champion and didn’t have much information about brain damage.
Throughout his career, "The Axe Murderer" suffered half of his losses (seven of 14) by knockout or TKO.
“I, for example, believed that the the more you got punched, the more you could take it. And it’s the opposite: the more you get, the less you can take in a fight,” Silva said. “If I could leave a tip for the young guys, it would be don’t hit yourselves every day. If you have a young student, don’t let him take too many punches to the head. There’s the right moment to do a hard training, but it can’t be every day. A good coach takes care of your student.”
Silva says he currently is a volunteer in an experiment from a Canadian company, and a vitamin-based product called “brain armour” is expected to help protect his brain before training sessions and fights.
Despite dealing with several concussion-like symptoms, “The Axe Murderer” has no plans to retire right now. Silva is hoping that fellow veteran Vitor Belfort signs with Bellator so he can rematch him in 2019. Silva lost to “The Phenom” by knockout early in his career in 1998 and says“it hurts” to have a loss to a “weak” fighter like Belfort in his record.
“I can fight him twice if he wants, no problem at all,” Silva said. “I’m fine, I’m healthy, I’m training, and at this point of (our) careers would be great for everyone. … I can’t end my career without this fight.”