Anderson Silva walked to the dais at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Jan. 31, 2015, following his victory over Nick Diaz at UFC 183 earlier that night and in an extraordinarily emotional speech, discussed retiring.
It was Silva as he was rarely seen before, sentimental, insightful, thoughtful and real. He’d come back from a badly broken leg in a fight with Chris Weidman more than a year earlier that had threatened to end his career on the spot and proved why he’d long been considered the best MMA fighter of all-time.
More than four years since that stunning speech, Silva is still at it. He’ll fight Jared Cannonier on Saturday at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the co-main event of UFC 237, and says there is a simple reason for it.
“I love my job so much,” he said, laughing heartily.
After a loss to Israel Adesanya at UFC 234 in February, Silva said he wanted to fight at the card in Brazil. It was assumed it would be a way for him to say goodbye on his home turf.
He’s 44 now and not nearly the same fighter he once was, when he was so dominant he held the UFC middleweight title for nearly seven years. He’s 1-5 with a no-contest in his last seven bouts, and admits he’s no longer shooting for the title.
But neither is he walking away. In 2015, his wife, Dayane, and his five children were pleading with him to walk away from fighting. He was married to MMA and his success came because of long hours in the gym, traveling the world to find the best training.
He was absent for long stretches, the price one has to pay to achieve the kind of greatness Silva did.
He still loves training. He still loves to fight, but his family comes first.
“Even when I said I was going to [retire], fighting stayed inside my heart and inside my mind,” he said. “I had given everything to my sport. In that moment, my family was giving me a lot of pressure to stop because I spent a lot of time away, training and training. I dedicated more time to my sport and not enough time to my family.
“And doing that, I stayed for a long time the best fighter in the world. But now, it’s different. I don’t need to prove anything for anybody. Now, I just try to do my best and work hard for me and my team. I love my sport. I love martial arts. This is what I love to do so much.”
Silva has “three or four” more fights left on his contract, and said he planned to fight those out. Then, he said, “we’ll see what happens.”
It’s obvious it’s hard for him to walk away, but this isn’t a case where someone needs to save him from himself.
Silva is losing more than he ever did — he has five losses in his last seven fights after just four losses in his first 37 — but he’s not taking undue punishment.
And his losses have come against some of the sport’s elite, including two former middleweight champions (Weidman and Michael Bisping); a current middleweight champion (Adesanya); and a current heavyweight champion (Daniel Cormier).
Cannonier is coming off an impressive win and is, as Silva called him, “a big, strong guy.”
“This is a guy where it is important I use my skills against him, Muay Thai and wrestling,” Silva said. “I’ve trained my wrestling every day to try to put my opponent on the ground. Let’s see what happens. It’s a very strong fight, a very interesting fight, but there is something more important. I want to give a big show for my fans. I want to do something special for the people in Brazil.”
He’s done it for more than a decade now, and he doesn’t seem ready to walk away any time soon.
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