Silva has XXXXL expectations
Antonio Silva was making the point that he feels quicker and more athletic when he’s small.
But to Silva, small is a relative term. Because at 6 feet, 4 inches, 260 pounds with a size-16 shoe and fists the size of ham hocks, Silva’s small is most folks’ XXXXL.
And there aren’t as many guys of his size and his thickness who are able to do a cartwheel, as Silva is able to do. He tried one after a recent fight as a promise to his daughter, Anne, and it turned out to be a miserable failure.
He’s about the size of 2½ gymnasts combined, but defending his less-than-artistic success by pointing out that “people were coming into the ring to congratulate me and I was trying to get it done too fast before I would hit anyone.”
It may be promoter Gary Shaw who does a cartwheel tonight – or at least thinks of doing one – if Silva is able to impressively defeat Ricco Rodriguez on a Showtime-televised Elite XC card at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, Fla.
That’s because Silva will make himself into a legitimate challenger in the heavyweight division with an impressive win over Rodriguez.
And it’s a division that Silva, who has fought at 300 pounds, plans to remain in. He’s worked hard, he said, since joining American Top Team and now walks around at 275. He easily makes the heavyweight limit of 260.
That’s beautiful music for Shaw, because he is pursuing a fight with former PRIDE champion Fedor Emelianenko, a man widely regarded as the best heavyweight mixed martial artist in the world.
“I plan to talk to (Emelianenko promoter) Monte Cox about the fight, because I think it’s a good one for both guys,” Shaw said. “I really believe Junior is the No. 1 or 2 heavyweight in the world, but the only way to prove that is not by me saying it but by having him fight those guys. I do think it’s a possibility.”
Silva would be more of a threat to Emelianenko now than he was several years ago when he was based in England and primarily a jiu-jitsu expert. He’s greatly improved his striking and said he was approached about converting to boxing.
Shaw, who has promoted many of the world’s great boxers, including former heavyweight champions Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson, marvels at Silva’s boxing skills.
“If you didn’t know a thing about him and didn’t know how good he is on the ground, you’d swear he was a boxer who came into MMA,” Shaw said. “His striking is that good. And he’s so athletic and he has such quick feet, he can get himself into position to punch and cause a lot of damage.”
But Silva is true to his Brazilian roots and says his fighting emanates from his jiu-jitsu base. He has learned much of his style from Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, the new UFC interim heavyweight champion and former PRIDE champion.
Silva said it was Nogueira’s encouragement that pushed him into the sport.
“I call him the Godfather,” Silva said. “I look up to him so much. He’s like a one in a million. He’s a legend in this sport and he’s so willing to help anyone. He’s like a brother.”
Unlike Nogueira, who is one of the icons of the sport, Silva has a considerably lower profile.
His only loss was to Eric Pele in a fight he was dominating. Silva had been pummeling Pele for much of the fight and, in the closing sequence, he was pounding Pele with knees and punches as Pele was covering up.
But Pele fired a wild right that caught Silva on the chin and put him down. Pele jumped on him and finished him with a series of punches and elbows to the head before referee Kevin Dornan stopped it.
Silva, who has won each of his other nine fights in the first round, was unhappy with Dornan’s officiating but was largely philosophical about the loss.
“I’m a human being and human beings make mistakes,” Silva said. “I made a mistake. I got caught with a punch. But I thought it was an error by the referee. He stopped it (too soon). Guys like Bob Sapp and Minotauro (Nogueira) got caught and took a lot more punishment than I did and they came back to win.”
Silva has scored wins over Wesley Correira and Jonathan Wiezorek since losing to Pele and hopes to add Rodriguez to his hit list Saturday.
If he does, Shaw has big plans for him.
“I’ve got a guy here who has the athleticism of a welterweight and the size of a heavyweight,” Shaw said. “He can become a very significant factor in this sport. I think he beat (UFC fighter Brock) Lesnar. To tell you the truth, I think he beats Lesnar easily, not that the other guy (Frank Mir) didn’t beat him easily, as well.
“Junior is a guy I wouldn’t be afraid to put in there with anyone. And that’s what we’ll do. We’re going to go out there and look for the best fights, whether it’s Fedor or Josh Barnett or whoever we can find, and try to get them in there with Junior. If we are successful, I think Junior will prove my point. He is the best heavyweight in the world.”