More than a year has passed since Wanderlei Silva last set foot inside the cage, and, despite outside pressures, “The Axe Murderer” has resisted the temptation to accept a rematch with Vitor Belfort upon his return. At least one person, longtime mentor Rafael Cordeiro, remains in his corner and steadfastly so.
Silva (Pictured), who underwent knee reconstructive knee surgery in July, has not fought since he earned a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner Michael Bisping at UFC 110 in February 2010. He wants a tune-up fight before he meets Belfort again.
“I think Wanderlei is coming off multiple injuries, but, at the same time, he has a desire to make this fight. There is a desire as an athlete and a fighter to make this rematch with Vitor,” said Cordeiro, who runs the Kings MMA camp in Huntington Beach, Calif. “I think, at this point, in my opinion as a friend and coach, he should have a fight with someone else before Vitor. When I say someone, I mean anyone who gets him back to being active.
“This fight with Vitor will become very important in his life, and he really wants it,” he added. “For Wanderlei to be 100 percent for the fight with Vitor, it’s important that he get another fight before it.”
Belfort challenged Anderson Silva for the middleweight crown at UFC 126 in February, losing by first-round knockout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Cordeiro believes participating in a fight of that magnitude would give Belfort a decided edge if the rematch were made now.
“Vitor just fought for the belt, and, thinking about the rhythm of the fight, he’s ahead of Wanderlei in that regard,” Cordeiro said. “I’m not saying that he’s better than Wanderlei, but Wanderlei needs to pick up his pace [before they fight].”
Belfort handed Silva arguably the worst defeat of his career in October 1998, as he blitzed his compatriot in a brilliant 44-second technical knockout. Silva went on to become one of the top stars in the Pride Fighting Championships promotion in Japan, winning the 205-pound title and defeating Japanese icon Kazushi Sakuraba (three times), former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson (twice) and two-time Olympian Dan Henderson in the process. Revered for his violent and aggressive style, Silva has lost five of his last seven fights. Fans have long yearned for a second bout between the now 34-year-old Brazilian and Belfort.
“I think he has the desire to fight with Vitor,” Cordeiro said. “Vitor already defeated him, and he has this desire to have revenge. However, the body says he stopped fighting a year ago and needs additional time to regenerate. He returned to training, with a focus on fighting, only 15 days ago. He was weight training, but he returned to fight training only recently. We’re still afraid to push him 100 percent. The most important thing is that the UFC wants him to fight, regardless of the time he’s been out.” Link