In Saturday’s co-main event at UFC 237, Cannonier picked up a signature win over middleweight legend Anderson Silva, landing a leg kick on the 44-year-old near the end of the opening round that resulted in an ugly injury. As expected, the crowd at Jeunesse Arena was not pleased with Silva’s loss or the circumstances under which it occurred, and they let Cannonier have it.
He wasn’t going to take that lying down and engaged in some theatrics to further incite the audience.
“I guess I sort of provoked it by winning. Also, by doing a little ear thing, but they was booing as I was walking out,” Cannonier explained at the UFC 237 post-fight press conference. “I was like, where’s all that — I didn’t let it get to me. I just responded, sort of like poking the bear. But no animosity towards anybody. I think the crowd booed me a lot more because I sort of provoked it a little bit with the ear thing and also the level of immaturity sort of let it go and rise and rise, but I expected as much.
“It wasn’t my intent to aggravate even more, to antagonize or anything like that, and going through my posts on my phone, some of the Brazilians are coming in and commenting, saying that it’s nothing against me, that they’re just passionate. I understand it, especially about their heroes.
“So I’m not gonna say I’m sorry for what I did, but I can say that I understand from that perspective that they’re very passionate about their guys and that was a pretty devastating loss for Anderson and I guess they felt it too.”
Cannonier, now 2-0 in the UFC with two finishes since dropping down to 185 pounds after debuting in the promotion as a heavyweight, was not only looking to add a major name to his resume on Saturday, he also had been hoping that an entertaining bout with Silva would at least give the Brazilian crowd a reason to cheer both of them.
Instead, Cannonier had to settle for what will go down in the record books as a first-round finish of one of the UFC’s all-time great fighters, an outcome that was even more to his liking anyway.
“I would rather have him fall asleep on the first time I hit him, that’s what I like,” Cannonier said when asked if he felt any disappointment in how the bout played out. “Flawless victory, plus a fatality, no injuries, no damage whatsoever. He kicked me, he caught me with that switch kick, he kind of caught me off guard, it was nice. He hit me with a jab, he kicked me in the body three times. I want to get in there and get out unscathed, knock everybody out in the first 10 seconds, give me money so I can go home.”
And while Cannonier could appreciate the magnitude of fighting Silva in his home country, he never let it get into his head before the fight. It was the victory itself that mattered most, not who he beat.
“There is no better feeling than winning,” Cannonier said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re winning against, as long as they are capable and the UFC only picks capable people. There is no better feeling than winning, again it doesn’t matter who.
“The fact that it is a prestigious name, a prestigious person in Anderson, I don’t really focus on how much better it’s gonna feel. I won, I’m going to my family with two checks. That’s the main thing.”
For Cannonier, the win was the end of a grueling week in which he had to deal with an injury that he suffered in his last hard practice as well as a number of other personal calamities. None of that appeared to affect his performance against Silva and he made sure to credit his team for helping him to get through his crisises.
Reflecting on the difficult fight week, Cannonier felt that the end result was almost a result of him deserving some good karma, even if thousands of booing Brazilians disagreed.
“I had an injured rib Thursday,” Cannonier said. “I get on the flight and get here, my dog has pooped all over my house. My daughter is sick, I don’t have my luggage. And something else happened too, I can’t remember.
“Something else happened, but like I said before, that’s the universe creating an imbalance just to balance it out in the end, and it balanced out in a big way.”