We got a close-up look at Anderson Silva toiling away at the Nogueira brothers’ training center in preparation for his August 27 fight with Yushin Okami at UFC Rio. Alongside beasts like Erick Silva – who will also see action at the big Rio de Janeiro event –, Rafael Feijão and Paulo Bananada, the “Spider” received his instruction from Josuel Distak and Ramon Lemos while sparring. Afterwards, he didn’t even towel off the sweat before having a chat with GRACIEMAG.com, then continuing the conversation while hitching a ride to the Barra da Tijuca part of the city. Check out what the superstar had to say, addressing the latest news from his side and responding to contentious statements made by his last opponent, Chael Sonnen. And don’t miss the exclusive picture gallery!
How significant is the UFC’s return to Brazil for the first time in ten years?
MMA is growing by leaps and bounds and gaining popularity. We have to be ever more serious about the work we’re doing in order for it to stay that way. The UFC coming here is really important for the big companies and sponsors to see and believe in this sport.
You’re managed by former soccer star Ronaldo and represent Corinthians soccer club in the octagon. Do you feel MMA may one day have as many fans in Brazil as soccer does?
Getting up there with soccer… Soccer has its own parameters and numbers. I have friends on the soccer inside and from being around them I’ve realized it’s something completely different in many respects, but I hope MMA gets close. In the United States, the UFC has managed to outdo American football, which is the biggest sporting event over there. We have to try and come close to doing that here. Beating soccer is impossible, but it would be great just to come close and get a similar level of recognition.
You always admitted to being a Corinthians fan, even tried to play for them. How do you feel now that you represent the “Timão” when you fight?
I was born in São Paulo [Corinthians is the most popular team in São Paulo] and moved to Curitiba when I was four but I’ve been a Corinthians fan ever since I was a kid. Life works in funny ways. I lived in São Paulo with my dad for a year and tried out for the Corinthians. Everything ended up going wrong, I didn’t make the cut, but I stuck around at Corinthians training boxing with Coach Vitor Ribeiro. I’m blessed, as now I’ve joined the ranks, I got to meet Ronaldo and have this relationship with the club together with 9ine [Ronaldo's marketing firm]. Thank God it’s all working out and we’re reaping the rewards. My greatest frustration was always that I didn’t make it as a soccer player, and now I get to represent the Corinthians in a different way. It’s really gratifying.
You broke barriers, gained exposure in the mass media, and your agenda is always packed. Does that get in the way of training?
We try keeping a balance between outside commitments and my work as a professional fighter, and it’s going smoothly. I’m working with super professional people and we’ve managed to put everything in order, always as a team. It’s been great, man. I feel this business of breaking barriers in other sectors of society when it comes to fighting has been going on for some time now. There’s the example of Master Rickson [Gracie] and other fighters. We just have to keep it up, keep working to get our sport to where it should be.
Do you feel greater responsibility now you’ll be fighting in Brazil for your next outing?
I’m chill, relaxed. I’m carrying on with my training and I’m focused. I don’t feel any pressure, if just because I’ve always rose to this type of occasion in the past and I’m training to do it again: to handle all kinds of pressure in any situation. Of course, it’s tough sometimes but I manage to keep focused and working on my objectives and goals. Master Pedro Rizzo just got back from Holland, so there’s that extra added energy now. Everything’s great.
Your last opponent, Chael Sonnen, recently made some derogatory statements about you, Brazilian fighters, and the Brazilian people. Do you have anything to say about that?
Man, what can I say about him? All of us, as Brazilians, get upset by his attitudes. We respect Americans, Japanese; we respect everybody. We have a tradition in this sport dating back many years and it’s sad to see people not respecting that. But if they don’t respect you in one way, they will in another. We’ll show our hegemony, our strength and heart in another way. Unfortunately, there are people living in the first world who aren’t all that evolved. We have to show our intelligence, take in the good and filter out the bad.