In order to salvage UFC 153 this past October in Brazil, middleweight champion Anderson Silva agreed to take a light heavyweight bout against Stephan Bonnar, a man who made his career on being tough and never being finished.
When Silva last stepped into the cage over eight months ago, he had nothing to prove against an opponent who many saw as not in his league. Bonnar, who looked in great shape (and was later revealed to be on steroids), looked to shock Silva.
When the fight started, Bonnar looked crisp but Silva was out to prove a point. He backed himself into the cage, dodged punches and slapped away strikes before he ended the fight at the end of the first round with knees and punches to the body. The result was just as analysts and fans predicted, but the fashion in which Silva took down Bonnar was a showcase of what the Brazilian could do.
"I'm not the best. I just believe I can do things that people think are impossible," Silva told the crowd in his home country after the fight.
This Saturday, Silva, 38, will fight in Las Vegas against Chris Weidman, 29, at UFC 162.
Weidman is undefeated at 9 -0. Silva has fought 37 times in his mixed martial arts career with four losses, all early in his career.
Silva, thought of as the “pound-for-pound” best in his sport, faces perhaps his biggest threat since his initial match with Chael Sonnen.
"All the pros, when you talk to all the fighters — every fighter out there that I've talked to thinks Weidman is going to beat [Silva],” UFC President Dana White said during a talk with the media last month.
But are the fighters right? Is Silva due for a fall?
“Imagine if I were to start listening to everything people say,” Silva said.
As for Weidman’s youth and whether or not he poses the biggest threat, Silva said he’s not worried.
“A fight is a fight. No, I don’t think age has anything to do with it. Weidman’s been wanting this fight for a while, so I’m sure he’s going to be very well prepared and he’s going to be able to show on the 6th how bad he really wants this,” Silva told Fox News Latino last week in a conference call. “For me, it’s to go out there and regardless [on whether I] win or lose, I want to go out there and do my job and I want to return home to my kids in one piece.”
For as good as Silva is, his family and country –which is reeling from violent protests over political corruption– seem to be his real focus.
“I’m going to still support the protests – the protests will still go on. Brazil needs to go through some political, economical and educational changes,” the champion said of his country’s unrest, which has disrupted the Confederation Cup soccer celebration.
Even his opponent admires him.
“He’s a champion that I’ve been keeping my eye on since day one. It’s just like everyone else, I love watching the guy fight,” Weidman said on the same conference call. “He’s relaxed out there, he’s done things that no one has done in this sport, so it’s always a pleasure to watch and I definitely admire him.”
As for Silva’s legacy, “The Spider,” who just signed a 10-year contract with the UFC, still has some gas in the tank, he says. If he gets past Weidman, fans are expecting a superfight with light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
But Silva is keeping his thoughts simple.
“It’s about setting examples to the kids and doing good things,” Silva said. “Everything extraordinary I could do in my career, I believe I’ve done, and now it’s a matter of clocking in and doing my job and keep on fighting and doing what I’ve always done.”
Follow Victor Garcia on Twitter @MrVicGarcia