There are few people in the world that know UFC legend Anderson Silva better than his good friend and long time training partner Rafael ‘Feijao’ Cavalcante.
The two fighters have been working together for a number of years now, and before ‘Feijao’ made waves of his own by becoming the Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, he was always a fixture during Silva’s biggest wins.
To this day, Feijao still helps his friend get ready for fights, holding pads or sparring with him during open workouts regardless of his own standing as a budding star in the UFC.
Lately, Feijao has seen the former middleweight champion go through something he’s never witnessed before as Silva recovers from a severely broken leg suffered in his last fight against Chris Weidman in December 2013.
He’s doing well. I think for any high level athlete like Anderson to go through an injury like that it must affect your mind, but he’s doing well and I think he’s going to be back better
— Rafael 'Feijao' Cavalcante
Because they train out of the same camp, Feijao has been there with Silva every step of the way through his recovery, so no one would know better how he’s doing as he takes strides to return to the Octagon one day.
"He’s doing well. I think for any high level athlete like Anderson to go through an injury like that it must affect your mind, but he’s doing well and I think he’s going to be back better," Feijao told FOX Sports on Thursday.
Inside the cage, there has never been anyone like Silva with his incredible variety of strikes, versatility and ability to savagely demolish an opponent or come back from four rounds down to still finish the fight.
Following this injury with Silva closing in on 40, it’s hard to imagine that he could come back as the same fighter he was before. While a broken leg and a year of rehab might destroy some fighters, Feijao says Silva’s mental strength is what always made him such a dynamic and successful fighter.
His physical attributes were amazing, but Feijao believes Silva’s greatest weapon was always his mind and that’s what’s going to bring him back better than ever.
"What’s always made him a great fighter, I think, is his mindset," Feijao said. "The way that he looks at fighting. That can’t change."
The mental side of fighting was also something that Feijao had to re-evaluate in his own career following a devastating loss to Thiago Silva in his UFC debut. As a former Strikeforce champion and top 10 ranked light heavyweight, Feijao was expected to be a contender when he debuted in the UFC.
The loss to Silva did serve one purpose, however, as it proved Feijao can’t put half effort into his career and expect good results.
Once he got his mind right and put his training back on track, the Brazilian started winning again. He looks to make it two in a row on Saturday night when he faces Ryan Bader at UFC 174 in Vancouver.
"It was definitely an issue of dedication," Feijao admitted. "In the first fight I wasn’t as dedicated as I should be so I had to go back home and reassess that and I feel like now since the last fight I’ve been really dedicated to what Iâm doing. It was really a lifestyle change for me."
If he gets past Bader, a slot in the top 10 will likely be his again and then Feijao believes he can start to challenge the best fighters in the division before making a charge towards the title and fights against names like Jon Jones or Alexander Gustafsson.
"That’s definitely what I want," Feijao said. "I think that’s why I’m here. I’m one of those fighters that’s fighting here because I want to fight. I’m a very competitive guy with myself so I want to go in there and I want to test myself."