Bruno Silva destroyed three opponents in nine months in Russia to earn a UFC deal in 2019, but a positive out-of-competition drug test for a banned substance kept him away from the sport for two years.
After being suspended for boldenone and its metabolite at a level the United States Anti-Doping Agency considered “inconsistent with boldenone meat contamination,” Silva finally makes his first walk to the octagon at Saturday night’s UFC Vegas 29 in Las Vegas, facing fellow Brazilian middleweight Wellington Turman.
“The first three months, man, I went from heaven to hell,” Silva told MMA Fighting. “I went through a lot of bad stuff the first three months. I had no desire to train, I was bad, but then good things happened.
“I traveled a lot in 2019, inspired a lot of people. People went to Russian through me and almost no one from my team lost in Russia. I built a family, I’m married and a father now my daughter is six months old. I was in bad shape for three months, but then I started to dedicate and evolve, train more jiu-jitsu and wrestling. I believe this Bruno ‘Blindado’ would kill that Bruno ‘Blindado’ that fought in Russia.”
Silva maintains his innocence in the USADA case, but wasn’t able to prove it to an independent arbitrator.
“What messed me up wasn’t that fact I wasn’t [making money for two years], but the accusation,” Silva said. “I spent almost 40,000 reais (nearly $8,000) trying to prove my innocence. I’ve done everything to prove my innocence. … I’ve seen posts on social media, people criticising me, even a journalist trashing me, using me as a joke.
“I had no desire to train. [Evolucao Thai leader Andre] Dida called me to train but I had no pleasure in it anymore. I went back to my psychologist and started treating my head to find motivation.”
Failing a drug test isn’t a good look for any fighter, and ”Blindado” says he asked UFC ambassador Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to convince the promotion not to release him.
“I’d rather stay away for two years, but, please, man, don’t let me get cut,” Silva told Nogueira at the time. “Please, do everything you can but don’t let me get cut. Don’t make me go out through the back door. Keep me under contract. I’d rather stay two years without making any money, but I won’t go out like that.”
The “main piece” to motivate the Brazilian middleweight to return to training was watching Robert Whittaker compete against Israel Adesanya at UFC 243. Silva, who says “the only fighters I admire in this division are Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum,” found his own fire relit after realizing that Adesanya was “beatable.”
“When I saw him fighting Adesanya, I thought, ‘Man, [Adesanya] is human. He thinks he’s an untouchable god, but he’s flesh and bone,’” Silva said. “I went to the gym and spoke with Dida and said, ‘I’ve seen them fight, man, and they are humans. I’ll evolve until I return and I’ll come back way better to do what I love and get that belt.’ Dida sat down and said, ‘I believe in you. You’ve done the impossible in Russia, why wouldn’t you do it in the UFC?”
Seven years after coming up short in his attempt to enter the third season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, Silva now joins the UFC on a four-fight finishing streak over the likes of Alexander Shlemenko and Artem Frolov. Turman, his first UFC foe, has gone 1-2 under the UFC banner.
Silva and Turman competed against each other once in the past, with “Blindado” winning a 2017 submission match by points in Curitiba, Brazil. Silva expects to win by knockout at UFC Vegas 29, but warns to not be surprised by a submission either.
“He thought I was just a striker,” Silva said of the grappling match, “so I went there and fought this dude and won.
“He’s not my friend, he doesn’t like me, and I’m not his fan either, so let’s brawl. I always ask my opponents to talk trash at me, to provoke me. Do all you can to offend me so I don’t feel any remorse.”