Most of us never got to live through the greatness that was Muhammad Ali's career. We missed the moments that those who witnessed them will never forget. From his amazing fights to his reception in Africa for the "Rumble in the Jungle" against George Foreman, boxing fans have been fortunate to have those special moments that will forever be remember. Yesterday, Brazilian MMA fans treated Anderson Silva to a similar reaction when he made his way to the mats for the open workout at Copacabana Beach.
The crowd mobbed Silva, hoping for a chance to touch the MMA great who is hoping to defend his middleweight title for an unprecedented nine times in a row while also extending his overall winning streak in the UFC to 14 fights. The Brazilian population has finally emotionally gotten behind the greatest fighter in the world and come Saturday night, I'd expect the support to be even greater. He is the best fighter in the world and finally he has the full support of his country. I hope he realizes the significance this weekend as he's our generation's Muhammad Ali. A fighter who was too talented for his peers who deserved all the attention that could be spared.
EDIT: Update from Brazil Correspondent Tom Mendes
Contrary to popular belief, during yesterday’s open workouts, Anderson Silva came into a divided crowd, half of which were cheers while the other half cheering against the fighter. The reason for that is because the MW Champion came into the workout wearing a jersey from Corinthians Football Club from São Paulo, who closed a deal with the fighter. But this is Rio and Flamengo has the strong presence of support within the crowd. At one time, the crowed started chanting "Hey Corinthians, vai tomar no cú", in short, a translation would be something in the lines of "hey Corinthians, go F… yourself!"
Anderson didn’t let the chants get to him, and staying positive he had the following to say: "I know I’m in Rio, I know Flamengo is very strong, but my heart is Corinthians. I understand the chants of ‘Mengo’ (nick name of Flamengo) because there are a lot of people from Rio. I want to thank Brazil for this big party. I will try to bring home only joy Saturday night for all Brazilians".
Being that this was an open workout, and not necessarily an MMA fanbase presence, it will be interesting to see if the crowd will also be divided come Saturday night.
It would appear that some fight fans have chosen "Club over Country" for UFC 134. Hopefully they will change their minds come fight time.