It was just a few years ago that Wanderlei Silva was on top of the world.
The Brazilian was wreaking havoc in Japan on an incredible 20-fight win streak while fighting under the Pride banner, and sitting as the best light heavyweight in the sport.
As times change and careers progress, Silva eventually moved back over to the UFC, the promotion he had fought for early in his MMA career, but didn't find the same type of success.
Call it age, call it competition catching up with him, but through six fights under his new UFC deal Silva was sitting with a 2-4 record and questions of retirement started to swirl.
UFC president Dana White seemed to encourage the idea because of Silva's long journey in the world of MMA, and some violent encounters with past opponents that either left him or the other guy laying in the center of the Octagon, unconscious.
It just wasn't in Wanderlei Silva to walk away, however; so he dusted himself off, picked himself up, got back in the gym and earned another shot in the UFC, and it paid off.
Silva put on a Fight of the Night performance with a victory over former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le, and earned a spot coaching the first ever Ultimate Fighter in his native country of Brazil.
While he coached the entire season against Vitor Belfort, an injury forced Belfort out of the fight, so Silva will instead face Rich Franklin on June 23 in Brazil as the headline fight at UFC 147. One win doesn't erase the past, but Silva knows that one loss will absolutely bring up the questions again.
Is it time to retire? Is it time to walk away?
“I have a lot of pressure in all the fights. Right now, all the fights I need to prove I can still fight. All the time I need to prove, and I'm going to prove it again that I'm still a really good fighter and can put on a really good show,” Silva told MMAWeekly Radio.
Some fighters almost get offended at the notion that anybody should tell them it's time to hang up the gloves and walk away, others just understand it's part of the business.
Silva is one of the guys who understands why he gets asked that question, and it's no different than what other fighters will deal with one day.
“That's normal. After you're like 32, 33, 35, 37 years old you're going to have these questions. When Jon Jones is 35 or 36 years (old), guys are going to talk to him ‘hey what do you think are you still going to fight or not?' It's going to happen with everybody,” said Silva.
“It's normal; we need to prove that we can still fight.”
Silva is addicted to fighting, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. He loves the adrenaline rush that comes along with walking into an arena. He loves staring his opponent down, and when it's finally time for the bell to sound and start the fight, he loves unleashing the “Axe Murderer” inside the cage.
It's not easy to want to give that up, so Wanderlei Silva is going to fight awfully hard to prove he still belongs in the UFC and not somewhere sitting on the sidelines.
“I'm going to keep going while my body feels good. I feel good and I love to fight, and when you've been inside the cage with like 20,000 people cheering for you, that's an incredible sensation,” Silva described.
“I don't know what I'm going to do after I finish because all the time I have these unique moments and I'm so happy for all that's happened in my life and my career. I just want to compete.”
He will look to do that once again when he faces Rich Franklin in the main event of UFC 147 because fighting and competing are what Wanderlei Silva knows best.
- Wanderlei Silva