UFC Inks Wanderlei Silva; Brazilian Legend set for December Return
By Thomas Gerbasi
It’s been a deal years in the making, but finally, one of mixed martial arts’ unquestioned greats – former PRIDE Champion Wanderlei Silva – will be returning to the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s Octagon this December for the first time in over seven years to take on the best 205-pound fighters in the world.
“Many fighters have a dream of fighting for the UFC, and as a champion for six years in Japan, my dream has always been to have the UFC belt,” said Silva. “Today, I’m one step closer to this goal.”
“As crazy as this sounds, this is the pinnacle of my seven year career in this company,” said UFC President Dana White. “I’m so excited to have this guy under contract. He grabbed my arm and looked me in the eyes like one of his pre-fight staredowns and he said ‘I’m gonna fight so good for you, you’re gonna see the best fights ever from Wanderlei Silva.’”
The signing of Silva, which took place in the Zuffa offices in Las Vegas Friday afternoon, is the culmination of years of pursuit and hard work by White, who weathered a series of ups and downs to get the Brazilian bomber in the UFC, where potential matchups with the likes of former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell await.
The 31-year old Silva, known by fight fans as “The Axe Murderer” for his ultra-aggressive style and finishing ability, began his career almost 11 years ago in his native Brazil, fighting in Vale Tudo bouts that pushed him to the imit as he honed the skills that would soon make him one of the most feared fighters on the planet.
In 1998, Silva would make his UFC debut against Vitor Belfort, and he would fight two more times in the Octagon (including a 2000 bout against Tito Ortiz).
But it was in the PRIDE organization that the legend of Silva was truly born, and after his debut in 1999, he met great success by winning the organization’s middleweight championship and defeating the likes of current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton Jackson (twice), Dan Henderson, Kazushi Sakuraba (three times), Ricardo Arona, Hidehiko Yoshida, and Kazuyuki Fujita, while engaging in some of the most memorable fights in MMA history.
“This guy is a real fighter,” said White. “He reminds me of Chuck Liddell, and he’s the kind of fighter that all fight fans love to see fight. He’s a gunslinger. He will get in harm’s way to inflict damage and pain. This guy comes out like a speeding train and never stops. He goes for the finish, he likes to knock people out, and I just think he’s going to bring so much excitement to the UFC, I feel like I’m going to jump out of my skin.”
Well-rested after his February PRIDE fight against Dan Henderson, Silva (31-7-1) now looks forward to the next chapter in his career in the UFC.
“I’m gonna work hard to give a great show for the fans and I want to thank God for this opportunity,” said Silva, who counts the key elements of his style as raw aggression, emotion, and intensity.
He also wants to send a message to prospective foes.
“I want to issue a warning to the other fighters out there: you need to train hard, because “The Axe Murderer” is here.”
A date and opponent for Silva’s return will be announced at a later date.