Anderson Silva’s wife and children would love for him to be home this week in Los Angeles, hanging out around the house. Maybe doing some training at his Spiderkick Gym near West Hollywood or going to see the latest Spider-Man animated movie.
Instead, though, Silva is almost 8,000 miles away in Melbourne, Australia. One of the greatest to ever strap on the gloves will fight up-and-coming star Israel Adesanya in the co-main event of UFC 234 on Saturday night (Sunday morning local time in Melbourne).
This is not exactly what those closest to Silva want. It is, though, what he wants, “The Spider” said Thursday at the UFC 234 pre-fight press conference.
“When I talk to my kids and my wife and all my family, it’s all the same — ‘Why?! Don’t do that!’” Silva said. “And I say, OK. Let me tell you something. This is my life, this is me. And I need to do something for me. Because when I stop, I never come back. And at this point, my family say, ‘OK, just do it. Do it. Do it the best you can and come back safe for home.’ It’s not easy.
“Everybody here has a family and everybody’s families try to stay close to you, doing something for your [safety]. Because it’s a war. Inside the cage, everybody is not joking. Sometimes big accidents happen. I broke my leg. Sometimes you cut your face and back to home and look at your family and look at your kids. Everybody looks at you and says, ‘Why do you do that?’ It’s a passion. You love your job, you keep doing it. My family respects my job and respect my dreams. That’s why I continue to fight.”
Silva is 43 years old now. It has been six years since he held the UFC middleweight title for a then-record 10 defenses. He broke his leg late in 2013 in a rematch against Chris Weidman. He’s tested positive for prohibited substances twice since then and been suspended both times, though the latest was due to a tainted supplement, per USADA. Silva, once the dynamic and dominant top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, only has one official win since 2012.
And yet, there is an opportunity for him here as his time in MMA beings to wane. If Silva beats Adesanya, he will have won two in a row against middleweight contenders. UFC president Dana White said he’ll earn a shot at his old 185-pound title. Robert Whittaker will defend that against Kelvin Gastelum in the main event of UFC 234.
“Israel is a great talent, he has a great future in this sport,” Silva said. “So I’m very lucky to come here and fight Israel on this card. It’s a good challenge for me, but I believe that it’s a big challenge for Israel.”
If Silva, who faces long odds, manages to beat Adesanya — whom many say is the next Silva — he’ll want to fight next for the belt at UFC 237 on May 11 in Curitiba, his hometown in Brazil. Even if he loses this weekend, that’s where the legend wants to fight next.
“My focus is now is for this fight,” Silva said. “I think hopefully win this fight. Or not. But my plan is to fight in Curitiba, my city, my country. With my next opponent. But that’s my goal.”
When asked if winning the middleweight title again after all this time would cement him as the best fighter ever, Silva demurred.
“It’s tough to talk about that,” he said. “In UFC, all fighters are the best fighters in the world. It’s not about me. When I talk about fight, when people are talk about you’re the best or something is the best, it’s not about the best. It’s how much you’re doing something special for this sport. And when I fight for my opponents inside the UFC, the guys help me to doing something special for everybody. It’s not about one guy — it’s about the whole family the UFC family.”
White jumped in at that point and said: “The answer to that question is yes.”
Silva just smiled. He’s seen just about everything there is to see in mixed martial arts. Here he is again, nearly 8,000 miles away from his family in LA, doing it all again against the extremely dangerous kickboxer Adesanya. “The Spider” knows how all of this works.
“This sport is very interesting, because one day you stay here, you win a lot and a lot of people talk, ‘You the best,’” he said. “It changes fast.”