No fights ‘til Brooklyn
Holm, Silva headline UFC’s New York return
Anderson Silva strode onto the stage toward his opponent, extended his hand and went for the hearty shake. He flashed a wide smile and threw his arm around Derek Brunson. Brunson slapped Silva on the back, they laughed, hugged and mugged for the cameras.
Silva and Brunson seemed more amped for a night on the town than a few rounds in the cage.
Where was the chair swinging? Where were the fur coats? The fighters storming off stage?
UFC held a much more G-rated return to New York than its blockbuster, outlandish debut in November when Conor McGregor styled and strutted his way through the city and led the company to perhaps its most colossal event. Want trash talk? Try the next Brooklyn sanitation meeting.
“How can you not respect Holly (Holm),” challenger Germaine de Randamie said. “She rocked the world when she fought Ronda (Rousey).”
And Brunson, eight years younger than the decorated Silva, was pumped to face one of his fight heroes.
“I can’t sit up here and act like I wasn’t a fan,” he said. “I grew up watching the guy. I watched all his fights.”
Brunson is on more of a scouting mission these days when he checks out Silva video, and when he looks up to Silva — way, way up — he’ll see the two on the video screen outside the Barclays Center near the top of the UFC 208 card on Saturday night.
Holm and de Randamie headline the card that will crown UFC’s first 145-pound women’s champion. Jacare Souza fights Tim Boetsch; Glover Teixeira fights Jared Cannonier; and Jim Miller takes on Dustin Poirier in the other PPV bouts.
UFC is holding its second pay-per-view card in New York since the end of the state’s nearly two-decade MMA ban. Headlined by McGregor, UFC 205 was stacked and boasted three title fights.
The 41-year-old Silva is out of the middleweight title picture these days, though his name helped sell a quick 11,000 tickets on the strength of his resume as one of UFC’s all-time great fighters. Silva won the middleweight title in 2006 in his second UFC fight and went on slap a choke hold on the belt for nearly seven years. He had 10 straight title defences before he lost to Chris Weidman in 2013. Silva’s only win since 2012 was overturned with a doping suspension and he was stopped on short notice by Daniel Cormier in his last bout at UFC 200 in July.
Silva, one of five Brazlians on the card, has no plan to quit any time soon.
“I think five more years,” he said, laughing. “Maybe. Maybe. Oh my God. My wife and my kids (would) kill me. Maybe three or four more years.”
Silva wants his crack at McGregor inside the octagon before it slips away the same way a potential fight with Georges St-Pierre seems to have had the window closed.
Silva posed for pictures with Holm, another former champion who does not want her UFC career defined by one fight. Holm has dropped two straight bouts since she stunned the sports world and knocked out the undefeated Rousey in 2015. Holm lost the belt in her next fight to Meisha Tate and lost again to Valentina Shevchenko in the main event of a Fox card in July.
Holm, fighting in a division created as a supposed coronation for Cyborg Justino, can join McGregor, Randy Couture and B.J. Penn as the only twodivision champs in UFC history.
“I understand it’s a big deal,” Holm said. “My biggest thing is, I don’t want to screw it up. I need to make this worth it.”
In this October 2012 file photo, Anderson Silva, right, throws a punch at Stephan Bonnar during their light heavyweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.