by Tom Hamliin – MMAWeekly.com
Wanderlei Silva was ready to make the move to middleweight when UFC boss Dana White came with an unexpected surprise.
Rich Franklin, tapped as Silva’s next opponent in Germany at UFC 99, didn’t want to go back to the weight class he once ruled.
“I met Rich in the middle,” White said of his solution.
The former champs would fight at a catch weight of 195 pounds, an unusual occurrence for the promotion, but good news for Silva. He walks around at 210 pounds – the cut to middleweight is too much, and he’s undersized against the Griffins, Jacksons, and Liddells of the division.
It was such good news that now Silva wants his boss to create a new division.
“I think it’s very, very good for me,” Silva told MMAWeekly.com. “I spoke to Dana (to) open a new division for 195. I think it’s great, because it’s good for guys like me. I’m going to push for the idea. (A) new champ every time is good.”
While getting his wish may be another matter, Silva is already at work preparing for Franklin, three weeks into camp and walking at 220 pounds.
The fight is a change of pace for Silva, who’s spent much of his career fighting guys he doesn’t like. Quinton Jackson was an easy target for his hate, as was Liddell (Jardine was admittedly neutral). Franklin is a guy he likes, despite a loss to the Ohioan in a heated game of rock-paper-scissors.
“I think it’s a very, very good match, because he likes the stand-up, he likes the action, and he’s an exciting fighter,” said Silva. “He’s my friend, he’s a nice guy. I respect him a lot. It’s a different situation because it’s better that you fight with the guys you don’t like. But it’s a job, and it’s a great idea for the UFC, and I know me and him are going to give a great show.”
The show is what’s far and away most important to the Brazilian brawler. UFC 99 is his first main event, and he feels responsibility to deliver action. The UFC doesn’t have the bells and whistles that former home Pride FC had. It’s about quality fights and decisive endings – even if they don’t always happen.
“I think it’s a presentation,” said Silva. “Of course, you need to win, and you live with your results. But I like the emotion; I fight with a lot of my heart. I love the crowd, and every time I go into the Octagon, like the last time, I fight Rampage – he’s like a legend here. He’s a great fighter, he’s an American, and the crowd have more for me. It’s a lot of emotion. It’s priceless. Every fight I’m gonna fight is sold out one month or two months before. My fans know I give my best every time. My fans stay with me every time, and every time, I’m going to give my best.”
The fight with Jackson was perhaps the best example of that belief. When Silva heard the crowd voice its disapproval, he stepped out of his game plan.
“I think this is one reason for I lose my last fight, because… it’s a very nervous fight, because I don’t touch him, he don’t touch me,” Silva explained. “He give me one jab, I give him one kick, and it’s very nervous. My corner talked to me, it’s one minute to finish the round; I’m thinking, three minutes, we no have action, we don’t have nothing. And the public is starting to boo. The guy not going to come in – I come in. I open my guard, and he got me.”
Win or lose, Silva knows that it’s a job like any other. Some days are good, and some – not so much.
“But I’m not going to change my style,” he said. “I love to give the show, and every time I fight, I’m going to give my best. I’m going to cut my faults… to give the victory to my fans.
“The UFC gave me a good choice in a hard opponent again, because here, you have no easy fights,” he said. “First Chuck, after, Jardine, Rampage, and now, Franklin; just tough guys. But I love it, because I love to fight with the best guys. I need to know my limit, and where it’s possible that I’m going. I give the time to give a lot of shows. I know I’m going to have a great future.”
And if he wins on June 13, you can expect more pushing for a “super-middleweight” class – a belt is a belt, after all.