It hasn’t always been blinding lights, flocking fans, and gold-laden success for Anderson Silva, who spent the majority of his childhood bedded in the poverty-stricken sprawl of 1970s Sao Paulo and Curitiba, Brazil. Spoils were few and far between amongst him and his peers during his youth in Terro do Brasil. Without that hardening and demanding background, which forced Silva to sink or swim, one has to question if he would have achieved such a level of combat sports success.
Silva moved to Curitiba at the age of 4 where he quickly became entrenched in the striking arts, as well as the traditional martial arts of capoeira. Curitiba, according to Silva, is recognized in Brazil as a breeding ground for up-and-coming muay thai fighters. Coming from a household that couldn’t afford to send him away to receive education, Silva spent his early days amongst his neighborhood peers, first learning the striking arts.
Initially partaking in taekwondo, once his family could afford to send him away to classes, Silva, at the age of 16, eventually landed at muay thai– which has served him incredibly well over the course of his career in mixed martial arts, which spanned all the way from 1997 to 2020.
“Curitiba is a very traditional city for Muay Thai,” Silva explained. “My first experience in martial arts was in the (muay thai) school. Because the school had a program for capoeira. A couple of friends started training taekwondo, and I saw that and was like, ‘Woah, that’s very interesting. And I started training taekwondo too, and jiu-jitsu and muay thai— I’m training a lot (of martial arts).”
Silva’s upbringing from poverty, with little choices in regards to future aspirations, would forge his career. It’s that background in Curitiba, which led to a hardened determination to take risks other’s wouldn’t dare attempt. While the city, housed in the Brazilian state of Parana, has produced standouts in sports worldwide, such as Cris Cyborg, Jennifer Maia, Augusto Sakai, Shogun Rua, Wanderlei Silva, and former Internazionale forward, Adriano to name a few— Anderson Silva is largely recognized as the metropolis’ greatest export.
Despite his almost unrivaled success in professional mixed martial arts, there was an entirely different career path which was laid out for Silva by his family.
He shared his experience as a trainee police officer, detailing how his family had encouraged him to pursue that career option.
“When I moved to Curitiba, with my step dad and my family, everybody (in the family) is a cop,” Silva said. “I learn everything, discipline, and when I take the time to go to school and training academy (to be a police officer), I said, ‘You know what, dad, this is not for me’. And my dad says, ‘What? Why? This is the legacy of the family, you can’t not do that (become a police officer). And I said, ‘Dad, it’s not for me’. And that’s it. My dad did not talk to me for two months.”
Going by the alias, ‘The Spider’, is fitting for a striker with a background in the art of eight limbs (muay thai). More often than not, it was more than just Silva’s hands that led to recurring success throughout his run in the UFC.
From a young age, he had a deep-rooted obsession with Spiderman. Silva described how he used to wear the superhero’s suit to school. It even caused teachers to recommend to his mother that he be evaluated by a physiatrist on one occasion, as he spent his time acting like his hero throughout the school day.
“When I was going to school I would say, ‘Mom, I need the Spiderman suit’, and my mom would buy it for me,” Silva explained. “I would use the suit, and put on my uniform for school. And, when I go for a break, I take off everything (the uniform), and the teachers talked to my mom and said, ‘You know what, you need to take care of Anderson because he thinks he’s the real Spiderman and jumps and doing something crazy’ And my mom put me in a psyche college (psychiatric center) to see if I have a problem, and the college says, ‘Anderson doesn’t have a problem, he’s a kid’. And that’s my connection with Spiderman.”
Silva went on to share that he was officially given the nickname during his time in Japan, when he was spotted wearing a Spiderman t-shirt.
“This is very interesting,” Silva explained when talking about the origins of his nickname. “One day, I’m in Japan, I’m in the hotel, and the lady who (the ring announcer) is introducing the fighters is staying with us, and she says, ‘Oh’— and I’m wearing the shirt, the Spiderman shirt, and she says, ‘Oh, you’re so beautiful. You’re a spiderman. You are spiderman.’ And, at night, same night, I’m walking to the fight. And, the lady, the same lady, when she introduced me— she says, ‘From Brazil, ‘The Spider’ (Anderson Silva)’. And it stuck.”
Later, beginning his boxing journey in his native Sao Paulo — it was almost a touch of faith that first led Silva to the squared circle as a youngster, detailing how he had first attempted to train soccer with the Sao Paulo football team.
“I go to Sao Paulo to take the tournament for soccer players, and when I go inside the soccer field, something happens. The people (organizers) don’t give me a chance to come inside, and because I lost the time,” Silva explained. “In the same place, they have a boxing tournament, and I sit down and start to watch it. And the coach, Victor Ribeiro asked me, ‘are you training?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m not training boxing.’ (And he said), ‘Ok, I’ll give the equipment for you, and go train right now.’ And that’s how I started boxing.
It was a culmination of those events which would form the foundation for one of the most impressive careers in combat sports history.
Nowadays, Silva is recognized by many experts as the greatest mixed martial arts practitioner of all time.
Amongst a multitude of his accomplishments, Silva’s front kick stoppage over fellow countryman, and former world champion, Vitor Belfort will surely live on through historical retakes by fans. Prior to that night in ‘Sin City’, we had never witnessed a strike so dynamic and simultaneously punishing in the sport of MMA. Particularly with that front leg technique.
More often than not, Anderson Silva is the first who comes to mind when you envision a countering force. Counter striking is the name of the game for Silva. He is regarded as a perfect example of a proficient and technically brilliant counter puncher and kicker.
Who could forget August 8, 2009 at UFC 101?…
That night in Philadelphia will likely stand the test of time in the history of mixed martial arts. Silva slipped and ducked, evading the forward pressure of Forest Griffin.
Countering is an art in and of itself when it comes to striking at Silva’s level in combat sports. You’ll likely travel far and wide before finding someone who disagrees that Silva’s stoppage of Griffin isn’t a great example of counter striking at its glimmering best.
Scattered throughout the years of Silva’s MMA career, there were discussions of discipline crossover events, to include Silva. Likely because of a 1998 showing in boxing, prior to his more dedicated time as a professional MMA fighter.
For what seemed like forever, Silva had been linked with a potential boxing match against former champion, Roy Jones Jr. That event failed to ever materialize.
Eventually Silva entered the boxing scene in 2005, where he managed to translate both a precise, yet punishing striking offense against Julio Cesar de Jesus. He pulled off an impressive win, despite the fact he was limited to his hands. The Brazilian wanted to make one thing clear by entering the squared circle against a professional boxer… high-level mixed martial artists can be technical when it comes to transitioning with just their hands and movement.
With it being announced that Silva is now finished with MMA, he is continuing forward with boxing. On June 19th, live from Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico, the world will be watching Anderson ‘Spider’ Silva put his iconic striking skillset to the test against his most decorated boxing opponent to-date. Silva’s boxing return will be against former world gold holder, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Chavez Jr. vs. Silva – Tribute to the Kings – will be shown live viewing on cable, satellite and digital Pay Per View, starting at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT, on for a suggested retail price of only $39.99. Integrated Sports Media and Joe Hand Promotions will distribute throughout North America via DirecTV, iN Demand, Vubiquity, DISH, SaskTel, Rogers, Shaw PPV and via the FITE.TV app (order below) in the United States, Canada and select markets world-wide.
ORDER AND WATCH ANDERSON SILVA VS. JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ JR. BELOW: