Gabriel Silva was just a 10-year-old kid when his older brother Erick Silva kicked off his career in mixed martial arts with two wins in one night in Espirito Santo, Brazil, in 2005. A few months after Erick impressed the world with a 40-second win in his UFC debut in 2011, “Gabito” decided it was time to join him in MMA.
Erick is no longer on the UFC roster after competing 15 times over six years in the Octagon, but the family blood is back in the cage through Gabriel, who makes the walk for the first time at Saturday night’s UFC on ESPN 4 in a bantamweight clash with Ray Borg.
Erick was Gabriel’s first coach in his early steps as a martial artist, and to this day continues to work together every single day in Brazil.
“He was always a role model and motivation for me,” Gabriel Silva told MMA Fighting. “He was already competing at the highest level when I made my debut. I always looked up at him as an example and someone who was always there to support and motivate me to get there.”
It wasn’t easy for their mother to watch one son compete professionally in the UFC while his younger brother took his first professional fight, but their father loved it. He’s always around, and flew to Texas to watch his UFC debut with Borg.
“I won’t lie, fighting in the UFC was a goal of mine since I started training,” Silva said. “This is what I trained for. It would be great if we were to fight together in the UFC, but that doesn’t change a thing. He’s in a big promotion now and I’m happy to be here.”
Shortly after his quick win over Luis Ramos at UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro, Erick Silva made quick work of Carlo Prater (though ruled a DQ by referee Mario Yamasaki) and Charlie Brenneman before getting thrown to the wolves, matched up against the likes of Jon Fitch and Matt Brown.
Seeing by Brazilians fans and part of the media as championship material since his first UFC appearance, Erick Silva would obliterate unranked opponents before losing to veterans in his next bouts. He never truly took off as expected, resulting in him parting ways in 2018 to go to LFA and then Bellator.
For his younger brother, even though he already brings a name that adds expectations over him for Saturday night, everything that happened with his brother in the past taught him valuable lessons.
“I don’t carry any extra pressure because of that,” Silva said. “We talk a lot about the things that happened, the good and the bad. He talks to me, ‘do this and do that’. He had his story in the UFC, and as an older brother he always wants what’s best for me. We’ll ignore all the pressure and focus on getting the job done.”
Silva, 8-0 as a pro, is “happy and honored” to make his UFC debut against “a great opponent” to test himself in the eight-sided cage, and expects to have some advantages since he’s originally a bantamweight — even though his last couple of fights were at 145 pounds — and Borg fought most of his career at flyweight.
“I’m ready to fight wherever the fight goes,” Silva said. “I’m prepared to go three rounds with him. I expect it to be a grueling fight with a lot of exchanges, with him trying to take me down, but I also have what it takes to take him to the ground and stay on the feet. It will be an intense fight. It’s going to be a great fight. We’ll put on a show for the fans.”