Mixed martial arts legend Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva was forced out of a UFC 116 bout with Japanese judoka Yoshihiro Akiyama with a knee injury, which he underwent surgery on that will likely have him out of action until early 2011. Regardless, the Brazilian brawler is already thinking about his return. Silva told MMAFighting.com that he is recovering well and that when he returns he is looking forward to taking on Chris Leben (who replaced him against Akiyama and subsequently called him out) and has a rematch with former opponent Vitro Belfort on his mind as well.
“I feel good,” Silva said of his recovery. “I had surgery and in the last year I’ve repaired my face and my knee. I want to fight six more years, until my 40s.”
Chris “The Crippler” Leben stepped in on short notice, two weeks after he previously fought to take Silva’s place. He battled Akiyama for three rounds and was possibly on his way to losing the bout before he caught Akiyama in a triangle choke with moments to go in the last round. Leben called Silva out after the fight and “The Axe Murderer” told MMAFighting that he would be happy to oblige him.
“[Leben] won’t pass the first two rounds with me,” said Silva. “I saw his fight with (Yoshihiro) Akiyama. It was a great match, and he beat him in the final round. He’s a tough guy. He had only fought two weeks earlier. I think it will be perfect for my next fight. If he wants me, I’m going to fight him for sure.”
Also on his mind is a rematch with current middleweight contender Vitor Belfort, who defeated Silva via lightning-fast knockout at UFC: Ultimate Brazil in 1998. Silva said that he was unprepared to face Belfort in the past but that he is confident he would fare better in a rematch.
“I didn’t study his tapes [then],” Silva said. “He’s fast, and I couldn’t react. Now, I have the technique to beat him. We’ll have a really good match,” he continued. “He’s tough. He has very good cardio. Sometimes, we’re so nervous in the fights, but he is very calm. He has incredible cardio and is a good fighter. I would like to fight him again.”
Silva earned his nickname for being one of the most fearless and fearsome fighters on the planet during his Pride Fighting Championships heyday. Having gone 5-2 in his last seven, many see Silva as having lost a step but the Brazilian family man vows to return to form as a result of his motivation and recent surgeries.
“I think my best days will be back soon,” said Silva.