Friday, Dec. 27, 2013 | 2 a.m.
For the first few days after losing his middleweight championship belt, Anderson Silva wallowed in the uncertainty of his future.
He spent much of the beginning of July’s second week alone after getting knocked out by Chris Weidman at UFC 162. The 38-year-old contemplated retirement, internally debating whether it was time to leave behind his storied career.
“But I got on the phone with my son,” Silva said through a translator, “and my son said: ‘You know what, Dad? Do what you want to do. Do what makes you happy.’”
That was all the man described as the greatest mixed martial artist in the history of the sport needed to hear. Silva (33-5 MMA, 16-1 UFC) had decided to rematch Weidman (10-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) in an attempt to regain his title before UFC President Dana White came down to Los Angeles to persuade him a couple of days later.
The surprising part isn’t that Silva’s family swayed him to keep fighting. It’s that the notoriously reticent fighter shared as much at the UFC 168 pre-fight press conference Thursday afternoon at the MGM Grand.
White couldn’t remember the last time Silva was so engaging. He said it was a sign that the challenger to Weidman’s championship had his mental state in order heading into Saturday’s main event.
“You can tell by his demeanor at the press conference,” White told a group of reporters. “He’s interacting with you guys. He’s not giving one-word answers. He seems like he’s in a good place.”
The takeaway was much different the last time White, Silva and Weidman gathered in the same room. That was after UFC 162, when Silva vowed he was done fighting for the belt and no longer wanted the pressure that came along with being champion.
White never bought it, which is why he set up a get-together with Silva where he planned to book the second fight against Weidman five days later.
“I showed up to a meeting where I thought he wanted this fight, and I was right,” White said. “He was actually fired up in that meeting.”
Silva, by all accounts, has been able to carry the same vigor for the past five months. Many believe the motivation foretells a different performance from Silva, who was widely criticized for showboating in the octagon to a severe degree before getting knocked out in July.
“I have no idea, and I don’t really care, to be honest,” Weidman said when asked what changes he expected out of Silva on fight night. “That’s up to him.”
Silva has switched around just about everything in preparation for the bout. He brought in new coaches to his training camp, which he concentrated solely in Los Angeles instead of traveling back for stints in Brazil.
That way, he never had to leave his family for long periods. He also hinted that he’s now feeding off the pressure instead of letting it get to him.
“I think the biggest change was really within myself,” Silva said.
Speculation has run rampant that another loss to Weidman would rush Silva into retirement. Some believe this could be the legend’s last fight regardless, as he’ll either step away having avenged the only loss of his UFC career or knowing his path to the title has withered away.
Silva was asked about it at the press conference, and everyone in the room braced for the type of non-answer he’s provided in every comparable situation over the past seven years. But after contorting his face to make a mockingly concerned look, Silva uncharacteristically provided a thoughtful response.
“I still have eight fights left in my contract, and as long as I’m still enjoying and still have that desire to go out there and fight, I’m going to keep fighting,” Silva said. “If I’m going to retire, there’s no way to say that right now. That’s something that’s going to come from the heart.”