For flashy Erick Silva, UFC Fight Night headline spot means time to deliver
MAY 02, 2014 3:57p ET
Erick Silva is a wildcard, a question mark, a point of debate. Seven fights into his UFC career, we've seen the spectacular -- two sub one-minute KO's -- and the disappointing -- a KO loss at the hands of Dong Hyun Kim. His true ceiling may be nowhere in sight, or he may have already be poking against it. It is all of those things that make his fights must-watch television, and have landed him a headlining spot opposite Matt Brown in next weekend's UFC Fight Night event in Cincinnati.
This is as good a time as any to try to figure out where Silva stands. After all, with Georges St-Pierre at least temporarily moving on to life away from the cage, the UFC's welterweight division has a newfound air of unpredictability about it.
That same element has been part of Silva's makeup so far. He's the same guy who beat down Carlo Prater in less than 30 seconds only to be disqualified for illegal strikes, the one who had Kim on the ropes seconds before getting his clock cleaned.
Nearing his 30th birthday, Silva (16-4, 1 no contest) is nearing the point of his career where those mistakes can no longer be written off as growing pains. He's no longer a young prospect. It's a positive sign that truth comes as a self-realization as well, not just something from the outside. In his setbacks, there have been lessons. Among the biggest? Tranquility in the face of pressure. Silva wants to see the fight differently.
Against a firestarter like Brown who puts you in quicksand and works to drown you in it, that will be an invaluable trait.
"I believe I'm more controlled now, but I won't stop being who I am," he told FOX Sports through an interpreter. "I'm an aggressive, unpredictable and dynamic fighter. I'm that guy. But yes, today I have more concern about finding a calmness in my fight. I will wait for space and finish my opponent. But I still want to finish the fight as fast as possible."
Silva's average fight time of 4:24 is the shortest among active UFC fighters. Brown can't match that number, but he also fights as if he's allergic to scorecards, going the distance only four times in 29 career bouts.
The fight is pivotal for Silva because of Brown's usefulness as a barometer. The American comes in riding a career-best six-fight win streak that has him ranked at No. 7. The first time Silva faced a ranked fighter in Jon Fitch, he lost a decision. So the May 10 bout against Brown which takes place at U.S. Bank Arena and airs on FOX Sports 1, serves as a sort of progress report.
"I think I'm much more technical than him," he said. "I think I have better standup and ground. I knows Brown is a really great fighter and aggressive but he has flaws in his game. I've been practicing my Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu to face him. I can see and feel my game is better than his. He's really aggressive but I don't feel his strikes are efficient."
Silva's push towards the MMA's elite has been a long time coming. He made his pro debut nearly a decade ago, a few months before Brown, who is viewed by most as the grizzled veteran of the two.
His athletic background actually began in soccer. His father Jose Carlos Nunes played professionally in Espirito Santo, and like most Brazilians, Erick was raised with the game, playing into his teenage years.
"I was not that good at soccer," he said.
But while that might have been disappointing to his father, it was another shared father-son moment that unknowingly charted Erick's future. Back in 2000, when he was 16, his father rented some videos, brought them home and popped them into the DVD player. It was old UFC fights. Royce Gracie and Vitor Belfort and other pioneers. Silva was immediately intrigued. Soon afterward, he began looking for a jiu-jtitsu gym and found one.
He quickly learned that he preferred an individual sport to a team game and after starting to routinely win small tournaments, he was invited to compete in an MMA tournament as well.
These days, his father is a big fan. Silva has plenty of those. His style is easy to root for, with his risk-taking and dynamism. But there are goals beyond that, of course. No one wants to be remembered solely for hints of spectacular potential. Silva, a 2-to-1 favorite, must win big fights -- important fights -- or risk hearing more skepticism directed his way. Even if Brown himself is a reminder of the possibilities of late-career success, this opportunity to headline a show in the U.S. crystallizes Silva's place in time.
You want to be a star, kid? You want to main event? You want to be somebody? Here's your chance. Do something with it.
"I'm so happy, excited and motivated," he said. "My camp was excellent. I'm just so happy happy for UFC to have given me this opportunity, and I hope I won't let anyone down. I won't let anyone down."