From the treasure chest: Why so serious? That’s what Anderson Silva’s asking

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That Anderson Silva likes fun fights GRACIEMAG (and our readers) have known since at least 2004, after his win over Jeremy Horn in South Korea. But at UFC 101, the “Spider” went too far against Forrest Griffin, leaving the mouth of the MMA world agape. GRACIEMAG was there once again, and unraveled what is perhaps the greatest secret to the champion’s success: MMA is fun and games to him.

Anderson "The Joker" Silva. Art by Victor Gruzman on photo by Gustavo Aragao

Anderson Silva and team wander the corridors of the Wachovia Center in South Philadelphia, after weigh-ins for UFC 101 – “Declaration”.

He catches sight of a large cardboard box and crouches in it. “Feijão, give me a push,” shouts the middleweight champion, who one day later would again venture into the light heavyweight division to face former champion of the weight class above his, Forrest Griffin. Trusty training partner Rafael Cavalcante joins the childish fun and takes Silva on a joyride in the makeshift go-cart.

It’s in this playful spirit that Anderson faces the trying career of a fighter, where athletes are always pumped full of adrenaline, mainly in the lead-up to a commitment in the ring.

And that is perhaps the main ingredient making the “Spider’s” performances so different. In the end, while a good part of the energy of his counterparts is spent in anticipation, Silva is able to relax not just before, but also during the fight, to the point of dropping his guard and exposing his face to let Griffin try his luck, as he would do the next day.

Photo: Josh Hedges

The gutsy former light heavyweight champion entered the octagon to sweat blood, but… “Why so Serious?” seemed to be the question being asked by the “Joker” before him, dancing ballet, gauging striking range, and landing blows with vehemence. Before his lights went out, 3:23min into the round, Forrest had already fallen twice. And when he finally got up, he was so disgusted he left for the dressing room running, without speaking a word to anybody, not appearing at the press conference.

“Welcome to Comcast Country,” the sign in the gymnasium would read, referring to the cable company based in the city. “Welcome to show business,” Silva seemed to say, marking with great technique and joy the UFC’s debut in the land of Rocky Balboa, “perhaps the greatest fight city in the United States,” in the words of UFC president Dana White.

The event on August 8 also had, to dispute with Anderson’s main event, the great performance of BJ Penn, who defended his lightweight belt against Kenny Florian, as well as intriguing bouts from Ricardo Cachorrao, who overcame Kendall Grove, Thales Leites, who suffered a contentious judges’ decision, Danillo Indio, who dominated his outing with Jesse Lennox, until a cut spelt his defeat, the example of Thales, his unhappy release from the greatest event in the world – at least for the time being.

But, once again, all that was very, very serious. And Anderson, besides being good, is a prankster. Dana White didn’t bat an eye and announced while still at the conference that besides the obvious knockout of the night award, Silva would take home the bonus for best fight. So something good did go Griffin’s way, as he too would take an extra 60,000 dollars for his part in the spectacle.

Packed and with Dana White mopping his brow throughout, to try in vain to escape the heat he was feeling, the press-conference was a long one. There sat winners BJ, Anderson, Cachorrao and Kurt Pellegrino, and not a single loser. The spots farthest in front were occupied by the big media: two seats for ESPN, four for Yahoo.com; AP, Canadian Press, Enquirer, Washington Times, Honolulu Advertiser, Las Vegas Review, Las Vegas Sun, Daily News. Specialized media en mass, and, from Brazil, NOCAUTE magazine.

Most of the questions were directed to the Brazilian, or were about the Brazilian. Anderson doesn’t speak English, but temperament has no tongue, and he was already joking with the  authors of the questions before they had even been translated. He pointed with a bottle of water, gesticulated, smiled. Until the comedic mood reached a climax when someone proposed the possibility of fighting Lyoto Machida.

“Look, I don’t care if they’re friends. This is like basketball, football. If a fight is interesting to the fans, I’ll make it happen,” spat Dana White. Anderson didn’t want to hear what his boss had said and gave his own response, shooting down Dana: “Look, we’re brothers, and this fight will never happen.” The laughter from the room only didn’t arise immediately because the words of the champion had to be put into English by interpreter and manager Ed Soares.

NOCAUTE chose to pose its question in private, when Anderson’s group was having dinner at a Brazilian barbecue place by the hotel, in the heart of Philadelphia:

“(Rafael) Feijão couldn’t have dragged you around in that cardboard any faster?”

“Yeah, he doesn’t know how to play!” replied Anderson, poking fun at his teammate.

Don’t be sad, Feijão. In this business, the guiding rule is to be serious.

UFC 101 – Declaration

Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

August 8, 2009
BJ Penn finalizou Kenny Florian via rear-naked choke at 3:54 min of R4
Anderson Silva knocked out Forrest Griffin at 3:23 min of R1
Johny Hendricks defeated Amir Sadollah via TKO at 0.29 min of R1
Ricardo Cachorrão defeated Kendall Grove via unanimous decision
Kurt Pellegrino defeated Josh Neer via unanimous decision
Aaron Riley defeated Shane Nelson via unanimous decision

Tamdan McCrory defeated John Howard via split decision
Alessio Sakara defeated Thales Leites via split decision
Matthew Riddle defeated Dan Cramer via unanimous decision
George Sotiropoulos submitted Rob Emerson via kimura at 1:59min of R2
Jesse Lennox defeated Danillo “Índio” Villefort via TKO at 3:37min of R3

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