Silva chomping for prime Chuck
LAS VEGAS – It wasn't uncommon when Woody Hayes was the football coach at Ohio State for the players to arrive at the practice facility in the morning to find Hayes asleep on a couch with game film flapping on the projector.
Hayes had stayed up all night breaking down film.
John Hackleman, Chuck Liddell's mixed martial arts coach, has no such need to stay up all night breaking down film of Wanderlei Silva, Liddell's opponent at UFC 79 on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
"I pretty much know what he's going to do," Hackleman said. "It's kind of like it used to be with Mike Tyson. Everyone knew what Tyson was going to do. It was doing something about it that was the problem."
Liddell, Hackleman and every soul in that sold-out arena on Saturday will have a good idea of what Silva is going to try to do when the two most high-profile light heavyweights of MMA's modern era finally meet in a bout that has been years in the making.
The problem for Liddell will be doing something about it.
"You're going out," Silva said matter-of-factly to Liddell at a news conference at Mandalay Bay on Thursday.
Silva might break from his corner like a sprinter at the opening bell, so eager will he be to get at Liddell. And he'll use any part of his body to inflict pain upon his opponent.
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He's a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but he's so enthused about the prospects of a slugfest that he insists he hopes the fight doesn't get to the ground. He said he wants to slug it out until one of them can stand no longer.
"You say it's a fun fight for the fans, but it's a fun fight for me and I think it's that way for Chuck, too," said Silva, whose last match in the UFC was a loss to Tito Ortiz at UFC 25 in 2000. "We fight a lot alike. That's why we're looking forward to it so much."
Like Liddell, Silva enters on a two-fight losing streak, having suffered knockout loses to heavyweight Mirko Cro Cop and Dan Henderson while he was competing in the Pride Fighting Championship. He hasn't fought since losing his Pride championship to Henderson in February in Las Vegas in what turned out to be the next-to-last Pride show ever.
UFC president Dana White was trying to match Silva with Liddell in September, but said in the summer that Silva turned the bout down. On Thursday, White repeated the allegation, saying he was told by a member of Chute Boxe that Silva didn't want the fight.
Silva later split with Chute Boxe and moved to Las Vegas, all he says, so he could expedite a bout with Liddell.
"If someone said I didn't want the fight, they don't know me," Silva said. "I was moving my family here and moving my house here. I wanted this fight. I wanted it very badly. It's the most important fight to me I have had."
But Silva insists he feels no pressure – "I have a four-fight contract," he says. "Win or lose, I'll fight again." – but said he's excited because he's sought a match with Liddell for years.
At the same time Liddell was building a reputation as the most dominant striker in the UFC, Silva was doing the same in Pride. Despite the enmity that existed between the organizations for years, numerous efforts were made to match the two because there was so much interest in the fight from fans and the competitors themselves.
"Of course, Chuck was the guy I have wanted to fight, because he was knocking everyone out and getting all these wins," Silva said. "When you think you're the best, you want to prove it against someone everyone thinks is the best."
Many of the fighters who starred in Pride in its latter years haven't performed as well since their arrival in the UFC. Highly rated light heavyweight Mauricio “Shogun” Rua lost to Forrest Griffin at UFC 76 in his first fight in the UFC. Cro Cop has gone just 1-2 in his three UFC bouts. Henderson lost his UFC debut against the one Pride star who has excelled, light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 75 in September.
Silva, though, doesn't see himself carrying the Pride banner. He's simply out to inflict some pain on Liddell.
"I'm a UFC fighter now and I'm happy about that," Silva said. "Pride was good and it was important in my life, but it is gone now and I'm ready for this part of life. None of that matters now, anyway. All that matters is Chuck. Just get me in there with Chuck and let us do our thing."