UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva is widely regarded as the top pound-for-pound fighter on the planet… praise that stretches beyond the bounds of mixed martial arts, including comparisons to the likes of boxers Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, alongside his counterparts Jon Jones and Georges St-Pierre.
There was a time well before he graced the UFC’s Octagon, however, that Silva – while a good fighter with a promising future – wasn’t someone that stood out across the globe or was anywhere near the average fight fan’s radar.
Silva made his way up the professional ranks first fighting in his home country of Brazil and then making a few ripples in Japan, where he defeated the likes of former UFC welterweight champion Carlos Newton and highly regarded Japanese veteran Hayato Sakurai, but lost bouts to Daiju Takase and Ryo Chonan.
Those were the birthing years of MMA. It was a time when the payouts were paltry and the highest level of notoriety was being a big fish in a small pond. MMA was nowhere near the pages of SI or in ESPN’s broadcasts or available for viewing on a major broadcast network like Fox.
It was a time that had Anderson Silva on the ropes like no fighter ever has. It was a time that left him shaking his head, ready to walk away from mixed martial arts altogether.
The loss to Chonan came at the end of his Pride contract, and although he was a respectable 3-2 in the Pride ring and always competitive, Silva believed that his dreams were quickly fading into oblivion.
That is when Silva went to his close friends the Nogueira brothers (Antonio Rogerio and Antonio Rodrigo) to tell them that he was done fighting.
“The Nogueira brothers, they’re part of my family,” said Silva in a Fuel TV UFC From All Angles interview on Tuesday night. “I love these guys because they help me stay together my dream. Because one day I talk to Rogerio and Rodrigo, ‘I no more fight bro.’”
We know, obviously, that Silva didn’t hang up his gloves. But it was his friendship with the Nogueira brothers that made it possible for today’s fans to appreciate the skills of one of the greatest martial artists of all time.
“At that time Rogerio, Rodrigo talk to me, I no have nothing. My dream is lost,” Silva recounted. “Rodrigo talked to me, ‘Hey, come over to my house. I help you. No worry. Come to here. Train together.’”
Not only did Rodrigo help Silva prepare, he advised Silva to no longer fight for Pride. Silva had no problems with Pride or fighting for them, but he obviously listened to the man he considers his family and left Japan behind.
Silva went on to fight a few more times for Cage Rage, a now-defunct British organization where he held the middleweight championship, before making his way to the UFC and never looking back.
Silva won the UFC middleweight title in just his second fight for the organization, and is undefeated in the Octagon, winning all of his 16 of his fights. His name is scrawled across the UFC record books.
At 38 years of age, Silva is entering into a new long-term contract with the UFC, is slated to fight Chris Weidman at UFC 162 in July, and shows no signs of slowing down… thank you Rodrigo and Rogerio Nogueira.
“I love Rodrigo. I love Rogerio. This is my family.”
(Follow @KenPishna on Twitter)