Wanderlei Silva destroyed Japan's final hope, Yuki Kondo, at the August 15th PRIDE Grand Prix 2004. Immediately, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson challenged Silva and Silva accepted on the spot. What drives the Middleweight Champion to success?
Silva has grown up in the PRIDE ring and has become an undefeated Champion. In a sense, Wanderlei is PRIDE. He represents the strength, the difficulty and the level of PRIDE.
Yuki Kondo's fight on August 15th was widely considered to be the last chance for a Japanese fighter to beat Silva. There didn't seem to be any other Japanese fighter who might be capable of beating Silva in their first match up. Silva, however, showed exactly why he is the Champion.
Both fighters were about equal until the middle, when Silva countered Kondo's low kick. Kondo was in danger and tried to put distance between them but Silva didn't let the chance pass. Putting pressure on the retreating Kondo, Silva closed the distance and KO'd Kondo.
"I train to attack like that", Silva commented. "Chute Boxe's training about always aiming for a KO. When you find the opponent's weakness, you attack it without stopping. That's our style." It may be Chute Boxe's style but the way that Silva slides his legs to instantly close the distance is not muay thai. Hearing that, Silva replied, "My base is muay thai but I've changed things to be more useful in vale tudo."
When he first appeared, people said that Silva's standing guard was weak and he had holes in his ground game. How is he now? He doesn't get hit and even Hidehiko Yoshida couldn't control him on the ground. Overcoming his weaknesses and improving his strengths, he is always training in new techniques and fighting styles. He's an evolved Champion. Silva's teacher, Fujimar, speaks highly of him, "Wanderlei comes to the gym before anyone else. He trains more than anyone else. Even when everyone else is on vacation, he comes to the gym by himself to train. He trained even more after becoming the Champion."
According to Silva, he doesn't choose his opponents, "I fight whomever DSE chooses." There are some people that say he only fights Japanese fighters that he can't beat but Silva fights whoever PRIDE's promoter, DSE, chooses for him. He doesn't choose the Japanese fighters. His stance is that he'll fight anyone.
Although Silva continuously said things like "I'm going to beat him down" and "I'll make him regret challenging me", he encouraged him after the fight. "Kondo is a tough, brave fighter. I hope he continues to train and wins in his next fight." Recognizing your opponent's effort and not bragging about yourself are the qualities that make Silva a true Champion.
Silva usually gains respect for his opponent's by having a stand-up war with them, and then cheers them on like he did with Kondo. There is, however, one person that he doesn't want to cheer for.
That man is Quinton Jackson. Jackson will challenge Silva for the Middleweight Championship at PRIDE 28 on 10/31. Jackson had said that he really hates Silva and Silva responded, "He's low class and rude. I can't forgive him." The two fighters met before in last year's Middleweight Grand Prix and Silva won by KO. After the fight, Jackson recognized Silva's skill, "Wanderlei was strong. He's a Champion", but was already looking for revenge, "Next time, he won't win."
"We'll be able to give the fans another good fight," Silva evaluated his favorite enemy. "I'm going to start training as soon as I go back to Brazil." There doesn't seem to be an end to Silva's motivation. "Fighting. That is my motivation. I want to fight a better fight than my last and win. My fight with Jackson will absolutely be better than the Kondo fight."
Silva stood face-to-face with Randy Couture at UFC 40 in Nevada on 8/22, immediately after Couture beat Vitor Belfort for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. In his hand, Silva carried the PRIDE Middleweight Championships belt. In response to Couture's challenge to unify the belts, Silva's gave an encouraging reply, "I'm a fighting Champion. If PRIDE wants it, I don't mind climbing in the octagon as the PRIDE representative."