by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
After a seven-year absence, Wanderlei Silva is set to return to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He will face possibly the biggest challenge of his career as he finally squares off against Chuck Liddell in a bout that has been in the making since 2003.
Silva recently relocated to the United States to focus his training for this fight, leaving behind his former team, Chute Boxe, and joining forces with Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas.
“I’m training a lot,” said Silva. “(It’s) a very, very important fight to me. I need to win and I’m going to win because I’m training five times per day for this fight.”
Working with the athletes of Xtreme Couture has improved many facets of his game according to Silva, who is currently riding a two-fight losing streak.
“Here has very good trainers, very good fighters (and) they opened the gym to me,” Silva stated. “The guys are willing to train with me and (it is) very good sparring. I’m in the best condition in my life.”
Since his last appearance in the Octagon, the UFC has undergone dramatic changes including different owners and the obvious growth of the sport.
“More promotion, the fans here are more crazy, more energy,” said Silva about the new face of the UFC. “It’s a good match and they’re going to love the show.”
It will have been just over 10 months since he last fought when he faces Liddell on Dec. 29, but the former Pride champion feels that will only improve his skills for the fight.
“Before, I’m fighting four or five times per year and this year I fight only one time,” said Silva about his fight activity in 2007. “I have no injuries. I’m hungry for a win and I need to win this fight. I wake up in the morning everyday with this fight on my mind.”
The rules changes will also be something different for Silva who fought under Pride rules for the last few years, but now he will have to adjust to the unified rules in the UFC.
“I’m going to change my game a little bit because I need to fight within the rules,” he commented. “There’s no problem for me. I train a lot of kicks to the body and to the face, and I’m going to use a lot of kicks in this fight.”
Despite the time off, the rule differences, and the camp change, Silva is as focused as ever to finally get in the Octagon with Liddell in a bout between two legends of mixed martial arts.
The excitement and anticipation for this bout can be summed up by the statements of UFC president Dana White when he was finally able to sign Silva to a contract earlier this year, for all intents and purposes, solidifying this bout.
“As crazy as this sounds, this is the pinnacle of my seven year career in this company,” said White. “He reminds me of Chuck Liddell, and he’s the kind of fighter that all fight fans love to see fight. He’s a gunslinger. He will get in harm’s way to inflict damage and pain.”