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Wanderlei Silva: ‘Memorable’ bare-knuckle match with Mike Tyson could generate more money than Floyd Mayweather fight

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Wanderlei Silva is open to a bare knuckle boxing fight with Mike Tyson for $10 million.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship is willing to pay Mike Tyson more than $20 million for one boxing match with no gloves on, and the promotion thought Wanderlei Silva was an ideal opponent for an “intriguing” clash with the boxing legend.

“The Axe Murderer” said he’s in.

Silva, a former PRIDE champion, is one of the greatest MMA fighter of all times. The Brazilian veteran, who in July turns 44, hasn’t fought since a quadrilogy with Quinton Jackson in September 2018 that ended with a second-round knockout loss. Silva’s overall MMA record stands at 35-14-1 with one no-contest.

Tyson, on the other hand, hasn’t fought in almost 15 years. The ex-heavyweight champion, who next month celebrates his 54th birthday, got people wondering about a possible comeback after video surfaced of him working with Silva’s former coach, Rafael Cordeiro.

“This fight has everything to sell a lot, especially now that everyone is stuck at home (due to the coronavirus pandemic),” Silva told MMA Fighting. “It would be the perfect moment to book a fight like this.”

Silva said he’s been contacted by BKFC president David Feldman several times in the past about potential fights, but seeing Tyson as a potential foe got him excited.

“David came to me once and said, ‘Look, you’re the first fighter that came to mind when I created this promotion,’” Silva said. “They offered me a few names in the past, but I said no – those names and that money weren’t worth the risk. To do something this crazy and fight without gloves again, it has to be something really advantageous in terms of name recognition and prize.

“He asked me if I would agree to fight Mike Tyson, if I had the guts to fight Mike Tyson with no gloves. [I said], ‘Look, first you have to ask Tyson if he has the guts to fight me without gloves.’ I was a world champion (in MMA), [and] I fought with bare hands before, and he never did. I think it would be a memorable fight.”

BKFC told MMA Fighting their offer to Tyson will exceed $20 million, and Silva’s reaction was to tell Feldman he would “enter the ring now” for half of that.

“There’s nothing going on right now, so a fight like this has everything to generate more money than (Floyd) Mayweather’s fights because of the entertainment and other factors,” Silva said. “He’s aggressive and so am I; I’m in great shape both mentally and physically, so it has everything to be a great show for everyone.”

Silva’s MMA career started without gloves in 1996, and going back to such a violent form of combat doesn’t worry him because “no gloves cut a bit more, but that’s not a problem if you don’t fear blood. It even gets smoother.”

If the match does happen, Cordeiro’s role would have to be worked out. The Kings MMA leader is working with Tyson in the U.S., but is Silva’s longtime friend and coach.

“He can train the guy –I won’t be there to train with him anyway, but he can’t be in the corner,” Silva said. “How am I going to fight with my master, the man that got me my first fight, in the opposite corner? I told him I won’t accept him in the other corner.”

“I’ll tell him to teach him everything wrong so Mike Tyson forgets everything he knows,” he added with a laugh. “Tell Tyson, ‘Let (Silva) punch you, his punch is not that hard.’”

The debate around a possible BKFC bout with the boxing legend “got me excited again,” Silva said. If Bellator isn’t interested in having him for another MMA contest, the Brazilian veteran said he’s “going after [Vitor] Belfort at ONE Championship.”

“This fight should have happened many times already,” Silva said of his longtime rival. “Every time someone offered me this fight, I took it, and I was after this rematch a while ago. But there are other good names out there. There are names good enough to put on a good show. If it’s not him, it’s someone else.”