CINCINNATI – Any doubts of Wanderlei Silva's toughness were dispelled forever at the weigh-in for UFC 77 Friday at U.S. Bank Arena.
Silva, one of the world's elite mixed martial artists, stood on the floor of the arena less than 10 feet from a speaker that towered over his head. As Joe Rogan spoke to the crowd gathered to watch the proceedings, announcing the fighters and their weights, the reverberation from the speaker was so strong I was certain it could deck a horse.
Several people walked away, bothered by it, but Silva stood stoically with his arms folded, oblivious to the wall-shaking thump flowing almost directly into his cauliflower ears.
A UFC weigh-in is an exceptionally different affair, particularly from those who are used to boxing weigh-ins. At the boxing weigh-ins, the fighters are kept apart and never see each other until they hit the scale.
But at the UFC weigh-ins, the fighters mingle behind the stage where the weigh-in is held, seemingly not bothered by the presence of the man they are to fight the next night.
Anderson Silva, who defends his middleweight championship against Rich Franklin in tonight's main event, was famished after cutting weight to reach the division's 185-pound limit.
Silva weighed in at 184 ½ – a half-pound more than Franklin – and set out in search of something to eat. But when he reached the lobby of the Cincinnati Westin, he was greeted by several dozen fans, all of whom wanted pictures, an autograph and a handshake.
"I was trying to get him moving so he could eat, but he just said, 'You know, I have to take the pictures with these fans first,' " said his manager, Ed Soares. "His first job back in Brazil was at McDonald's, so he is one of them. He was a working guy just like they are. He went from flipping burgers to UFC champion."
Former heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia, who lost his belt when he was routed by Randy Couture in March, wore an Xtreme Couture T-shirt to the weigh-in, as did all of his camp members.
Sylvia, who at 260 ½ will have a 35-pound weight advantage over the 225 ½-pound Vera, said it was a show of respect.
"Randy's a good friend of mine and I have all the respect in the world for him," said Sylvia, who was greeted by a chorus of boos from the several thousand fans who made the trek to the weigh-in. "I just wanted to show that."
He was munching on a sandwich, calmly watching as Vera did a last-minute interview. UFC president Dana White, who said he wouldn't be surprised if Sylvia-Vera was the fight of the night, shook his head as he saw the two standing so closely together.
"That's the thing about this sport, that respect the fighters have for each other," White said. "Those guys are going to be trying to rip each other's heads off (on Saturday), but they're standing there showing great respect."
Vera will be fighting for the first time since Nov. 18, after which a contractual dispute and managerial problems sidelined him. The winner of the bout is likely to fight early next year for the title that Couture vacated last week.
And though Vera said he's not sure what impact the layoff will have until the fight begins, he said he believes he's better now than he was then.
"This wasn't wasted time off," Vera said. "I made the most of the time. I worked hard, maybe harder than I've ever worked. You'll see. I feel really confident I'm going to be impressive."
White said he believes Vera, who at 6-2 is six inches shorter than Sylvia, will use a lot of leg kicks to counter Sylvia's reach.
"Brandon has good kicks and I think he's going to use them a lot," White said. "It's always a problem when you face someone so massive, it always presents a problem, but the counter for that is a lot of leg kicks. And I think Brandon's going to try that a lot."
Lightweight Jorge Gurgel hopes to be impressive in his fight with Alvin Robinson, but just the fact he's fighting at all is significant. Gurgel suffered a battery of injuries in his July 7 fight in Sacramento, Calif., with Diego Saraiva, the most significant of which was a broken bone on the left side of his jaw.
The Cincinnati resident trained in Wyoming with Franklin, his close friend, and said he doesn't expect any residual impact.
"It was a pretty bad injury and for some people, it might make them gun shy," Gurgel said. "But you know me. I don't think I'm happy unless I'm getting hit. Then I know I'm in a fight. It's not going to affect me.
"I will be fine. It's going to be a good night for me and for Rich and for Cincinnati."
Only Josh Burkman, who fights Forrest Petz in a welterweight match, had problems at the scale. Burkman weighed in at 171 ½. He took off his shorts, stripped nude (with a towel held up to block the fans’ view) and still weighed 171 ½, which was a half-pound over the contractual maximum.
He came back about an hour later and had lost the half-pound, weighing in at 171. Petz came in at 170.
Full weigh-in results: Jason Black (156) vs. Matt Grice (155)
Josh Burkman (171) vs. Forrest Petz (170)
Ryan Jensen (185 ½) vs. Demia Maia (185)
Yushin Okami (186) vs. Jason MacDonald (184 ½)
Alvin Robinson (155) vs. Jorge Gurgel (155)
Kalib Starnes (186) vs. Alan Belcher (186)
Stephan Bonnar (204) vs. Eric Schafer (203 ½)
Tim Sylvia (260 ½) vs. Brandon Vera (225 ½)
Rich Franklin (184) vs. Anderson Silva (184 ½)
More UFC 77: Rich Franklin-Anderson Silva fight breakdown.