Interviewing Anderson Silva can be like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube or a really difficult math equation. Make one miscalculation and it could send you down an onerous path.
Just in the last few months, Silva has completely contradicted himself in the media. The former UFC middleweight champion said on a conference call in August that he was no longer interested in fighting for the title. Yet recently, he told a Brazilian outlet that he wanted to get his belt back.
Confused? That’s the point. Silva has been an enigma with the press and it’s by design. When speaking to reporters, "The Spider" says very little and if something profound does come out of his mouth it could very well be intended for misdirection.
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"I think he likes to f*** with you guys, to be honest with you,” UFC president Dana White said of Silva in 2012. “I’ll read something, and I’ll be like, ‘What the f***? He said that?’ I think he just plays with you guys."
There was none of that Tuesday during Silva’s press conference in Rio de Janeiro to promote his UFC 183 return bout with Nick Diaz on Jan. 31 in Las Vegas. Maybe it was the fact that the event took place in Brazil and Silva was able to speak Portuguese. Or maybe it was because there were fans there in addition to reporters. Regardless of the reason, Silva let us all inside his head a little more than we’re used to.
Silva, regarded as the greatest MMA fighter of all time, spoke about facing depression after breaking his leg against Chris Weidman during a fight last December. He talked about the long road back, the tough rehab process. And for the first time, he elaborated on his motivation for returning — he wants to see if he can ascend to the level he was at before losing in two straight fights to Weidman in 2013.
In my last fights, I let something go and I’m looking for that again. That’s what I’m after.
"I feel that I let something let go in this whole road fighting," Silva said. "In my last fights, I let something go and I’m looking for that again. That’s what I’m after."
Silva, 39, was candid and honest during the press conference with his team — coaches and a doctor — around him. He was funny and charismatic. Silva joked around, but his sarcasm was largely tempered. There were no references to Steven Seagal teaching him new techniques or bringing Chuck Norris to training camp. Silva was real.
"After I got injured, I learned to value a few things I had let go of, something that I had left behind," Silva said. "And that changed me a lot. I’m more mature. I’m in a different phase, more mature, a little more knowing. I’m very happy to be able to come back and do this again. I thought I wouldn’t be able to fight again."
The Silva that spoke from the heart Tuesday is, we figure, who Silva actually is. We’ll never know how serious he was about boxing Roy Jones or trying out for the Olympics in taekwondo. White has compared dealing with Silva to working with an artist. His brain works in a different kind of way — if it didn’t he wouldn’t have been so brilliant in the Octagon for so long.
Anderson Silva spoke about his depression coming back from a broken leg Tuesday.
But the Silva we saw Tuesday was down to Earth, rational and logical. Sometimes you’d have to shake your head at the things Silva would say during a press conference or interview, even when there was no language barrier. This Silva made perfect sense.
"When I realized that my leg was broken, I thought my career was over," Silva said. "A million things went through my mind. You might think depression isn’t something serious. I was depressed, I was very upset. If I didn’t have the people I have by my side, maybe I wouldn’t come back."
But here Silva is and this is where he wants to be. There were questions about his drive before he was knocked out by Weidman in July 2013, about how long he wanted to keep going. Silva admitted the pressure of being champion got to him and he feels a weight lifted off his shoulders without that heavy gold belt.
Silva has never been fully comfortable talking to the press, but he looked that way Tuesday. Maybe it’s because he won’t have to deal with it again until right before UFC 183. The UFC announced that the Q&A would be the last time he speaks to the media until fight week.
That’s OK, because what Silva gave fans Tuesday was plenty to digest. The mysterious aura was gone — maybe it was after the first Weidman fight — and in its place, a new "Spider."
"I should have evolved a lot more, but I didn’t keep up with that evolution," Silva said of his fighting style. … "I lost a lot of things because of my personality. I’m learning to deal with that and understand that a lot of things change."