When Wanderlei Silva failed to submit to a random drug test ahead of a proposed fight with Chael Sonnen under the UFC banner in 2014, he was eventually handed a lifetime ban and fined $70,000 by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Nearly everyone felt that would be the end of the career of “The Axe Murder.”
Abut a year later, a judge overturned the lifetime ban, and Silva was eventually released by the UFC.
Now, two years down the road, the 42-year-old fighter has found new life under the Bellator banner. The promotion hasn’t billed it as such, but it seems that Silva sees Bellator’s penchant for signing fighters in their sunset years as a de facto “stars division” akin to Vitor Belfort’s idea of a Legend’s Division.
“Bellator is indirectly creating the stars division – I’m 42 now – where stars fight each other,” Silva said in an interview with MMAFighting.
In addition to Silva, Bellator has inked the likes of Tito Ortiz, Chael Sonnen, Fedor Emelianenko, Jon Fitch, Rampage Jackson, Frank Mir, and numerous other athletes that are essentially past their prime fighting years, but want to remain active.
Silva especially lauded the recent addition of former UFC champion Lyoto Machida.
“They brought Lyoto now, a nice acquisition,” he said. “Lyoto’s contract with the UFC ran out and they didn’t call him to talk. Bellator called him and they had a good conversation, so ‘good, deal.’ The offer was really good, to make a good number. I also make good money.”
Silva believes that the stars division is paying off, as witnessed by his first fight for Bellator, a loss to Sonnen in the bout that “never was” under the UFC banner.
“My return was interesting because Bellator gave me a stage that was worthy of the return of Wanderlei Silva. I was the main event, sold out. Bellator guys said that it was the biggest ratings in promotion history,” said Silva. “We really broke all records, so I’m happy to bring all this attention from the audience to see that Wanderlei Silva is stronger than ever.”
While he isn’t likely headed toward a title fight any time soon, Silva is content to give the fans what they want from the Axe Murderer. He’s doubtful that his pending match-up with Rampage Jackson will be the barnburner that fans want to see, but is hopeful that he’ll find a fighter that will stand and trade with the man known for his brutal knockout-or-be-knocked-out bouts under the Pride FC banner.
“(Rampage) keeps complaining about wrestlers, but I wanna see if he will have the courage to stand in front of me and trade punches. People talk, talk, but when it’s time to fight me, they all wanna hug me. When they give me a striker that agrees to trade with me, it’s going to be great.“