All hyberbole removed, Anderson Silva will face the toughest challenge of his career on July 6 when he takes on the undefeated Chris Weidman at UFC 162. So why, then, was most of a conference call in advance of the fight covering mostly everything but the fight? A quick look at the highlights from the call:
· A Fight Bigger Than His Own: While Silva might have the biggest fight of his legendary career in front of him, that doesn’t mean he’s lost perspective on what looks to be a bigger battle: That for the future of his native Brazil. In what’s becoming an increasing rarity in sports, Silva embraced his celebrity to speak intelligently and eloquently about the political protests unfolding in his homeland. The protests, Silva says, “are valid as long as they’re peaceful and there’s no destruction of any property.” He went on to say, “Brazil’s got everything to be a great country for Brazilians and for immigrants. It’s just a matter of having more conscious politicians and now people are going to the streets and demanding that from the government.”
The protests began on June 6 as a small, centralized outcry against a hike in transit fees but have swelled in both numbers and purpose. Last Thursday, 1.5 million Brazilians took to the streets in more than 80 cities to rage against government corruption, substandard health care and education, and an atrocious public safety record. Though the protests come on the precipice of soccer’s World Cup next year and the 2016 Summer Olympics, no other sport has a larger percentage of athletes affected than mixed martial arts. Three of the top 10 pound-for-pound UFC fighters are Brazilian-born. For more on the protests, check out this week's July 1 edition of Sports Illustrated.
· Who’s Fighting Again? Weidman is Silva’s next opponent but he fielded what seemed like just as many questions about . . . Roy Jones, Jr. Yup, the boxer. And the boxer who, we humbly submit, at age 44, should, perhaps, consider hanging up his gloves. “That’s a fight I’ve always wanted. That’s a fight I still want,” Silva says of a matchup with the boxer. “His boxing style is one that I would like to test myself against. I’ve always been a fan of his and I’ve always wanted to test myself against Roy Jones.” Silva floated the idea of fighting Jones earlier this month in an interview with the New York Post. What started as a whimsical wish in a tabloid registered as a legitimate challenge to Jones who responded via TMZ that he would accept the bout?
· Psyched Out? Chris Weidman, who graduated from Hofstra with a psychology degree, may have found an unusual application for his studies: Beating Silva. “I just know what kind of mindset I need to have when I walk in that cage,” Weidman says. “The biggest thing is to stay confident, stay relaxed and make sure I dictate my fight once I get in there.”
-- Melissa Segura