Just as Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira laced up his boxing gloves in the covered area designated for the press and fighters, the heavyweight didn’t delay an instant when he spotted the lean elderly fellow before him, he promptly started firing off affectionate punches to his lungs and liver. “Let’s get up there, today you’re going to be my sparring partner!” Juarez Silva, 60, swiftly declined the invitation, with an amused cackle, grinning broad enough to reveal the gap in the back of the arch in his teeth. Laid back and decked out in a Corinthians jersey, his son’s team uniform, Anderson Silva’s dad gabbed with the press about soccer, MMA, the training session he had with his son one time, and he let out with a deep sigh: “Being Anderson Silva’s dad is living with an accelerated heart rate.”
It wasn’t Juarez who took Anderson to his earliest boxing practices at Corinthians, nor in Curitiba. “His cousin’s the one who took him,” he recalls, confessing that he never expected his son to become a superstar on par with the likes of Michael Jordan or Pelé, as the UFC video below proclaims.
“Every father’s dream is to see his son become a winner. But I was surprised, I never imagined he’d make it this far, getting sponsored by Corinthians, being applauded wherever he goes. Anderson’s sport has grown a lot,” he says calmly. But sons who provide joy also provide suffering – like any son, that is. “In that fight last year, where he got the triangle in the last round [against Chael Sonnen], I almost died. Being Anderson’s dad is living with an accelerated heart rate. You have much to celebrate, but you worry a bit, too.”
Juarez, who has been a fan of soccer club Santos ever since he witnessed Pelé playing live, wouldn’t miss a single pickup game with his friends, but eight years ago he switched uniforms – it hurts less. “I’d always play, but about eight years ago I started slowing things down. Then Anderson asked me to keep exercising through muay Thai and boxing training, and I liked it. One time, Anderson asked me to do some standup sparring with him. I can tell you it wasn’t all that pleasant for me,” smiled the elder Silva, who didn’t want to risk a prediction on Saturday’s fight. “He’s ready but I don’t have a prediction.”
Juarez still works, even while his son just gets wealthier and wealthier. “I worked at a publishing house, did a bunch of things. Now I work selling tickets with friends in São Paulo. I’m a scalper now,” he says. So I ask him, for his experience with these events where tickets sell out quickly, if he has a ticket for UFC Rio on Saturday.
“Not one!” the champion’s father replied with a grin.