Amanda Nunes became the UFC bantamweight and featherweight queen years after moving to American Top Team. Thiago Santos benefited from TFT’s partnership with ATT to evolve and one day give Jon Jones one of his toughest fights ever.
Claudio Silva, winner of 12 straight, looks up to them after his long-awaited first camp at the Florida-based mixed martial arts gym.
Victorious in his four appearances under the UFC banner, “Hannibal” returns to the Octagon against promotional newcomer Cole Williams at Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 5 in Newark, and told MMA Fighting that joining ATT was a longtime dream.
“I’ve been waiting to train at American Top Team since 2017,” Silva said, “but had several setbacks, like injuries and three visas denied. I’ve always imagined how it would be like to train here, and it’s even better. I’ve learned a lot since coming to Florida. I left my comfort zone in London and that has changed my life.”
ATT is home for many top-ranked UFC welterweights, and Silva mentions Jorge Masvidal as one of the closest teammates that made him feel “at home, part of the family” in Florida.
“I got beat up in practice, I thought I sucked, that I was garbage, but then I learned new techniques, small details that completely changed the positions,” Silva said. “Those were the days that made me realize I was in the best place.”
Competing in the UFC since 2014, the Brazilian is undefeated since his MMA debut in 2007 and holds wins over the likes of Leon Edwards, Nordine Taleb and Danny Roberts, and feels he’ll perform even better now.
“I’ve always mentioned Amanda Nunes and ‘Marreta’ (Santos), fighters who went to ATT and changed completely,” Silva said. “The level is really high here at ATT. People from all over the world come here to train. I have a white-belt mindset, always trying to learn new things, and I wasn’t wrong by wanting to come here.”
Coming off a third-round submission win over Roberts in May, Silva was originally matched-up against Ramazan Emeev in Newark, but Williams stepped up on short notice after Emeev was removed from the card due to visa issues.
Williams, 11-1 in MMA, missed weight by five pounds for UFC on ESPN 5 on Friday morning, and Silva criticized his “unprofessional” behavior prior to the fight. That said, he won’t complain about facing a promotional newcomer in his fifth Octagon appearance.
“I don’t see this newcomer as an easy win,” Silva said or Williams. “Every fight is a fight. Being the favorite means nothing to me. What matters is going there and fighting. I won’t get paid if I don’t go there, and I want to fight. I’m taking this fight seriously. This is like a title fight to me, so I’m not frustrated about it.”
Speaking of championship fights, “Hannibal” vows to “move up the ladder step by step”, but already has a timetable for when he will enter the Octagon to challenge for the welterweight throne.
“My goal is to have the belt in two years,” Silva said. “I was away from the sport for three and a half years due to injuries and came back against one of the toughest guys [Taleb] and won in the first round. The only reason I’m not fighting for the belt or in the top 5 is because of my injuries, and I’m proving that with my comeback.”