The UFC has been having a rough run with injuries and last minute replacements fights. The long awaited rematch between Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort has fallen victim to this plague, with Belfort having to withdraw from their bout due to a broken hand. Rich Franklin has stepped up to answer the call of duty, and will now be meeting Silva at UFC 147 in Brazil. In a recent TapouT Radio interview, Wanderlei opened up about his thoughts on the less than friendly fire between himself and Vitor, the TUF Brazil season and getting a shot at redemption against Franklin.
*Note: Interviewer is either my co-host, Evan Shoman of TapouT Radio, or myself. When I don't conduct these interviews by myself, I just put "Interviewer" to eliminate having to bounce back and forth between three different names.
Interviewer: In coaching TUF Brazil, even though Vitor's team logged more wins, the fans seemed to side more with your coaching ability. How did that make you feel?
Wanderlei Silva: Those guys came in ready. Inside the octagon is your opportunity, and you need to do your best. I wanted to win. He chose the better guys. His guys won more, and he's a good coach, but the guys won those fights, not him.
Interviewer: During the episodes of TUF Brazil that have already aired, Vitor's habit of making long, drawn out speeches seem to bother you. Can you talk about what was going on there?
Wanderlei Silva: [laughs] You know, I don't know if it's good or bad, but I can't lie about what I feel. My relationship with him isn't really 'He's bad, I'm good' or 'He's good, I'm bad', but some people, we can't work together. He's one of the people that I can't work together with. I don't hate him, but I don't want to work together with him. He's a guy that I don't want to be together or close friends with. He's not the kind of person that I like, you know.
Last week, I lost the kick in soccer to him on the show, and I felt so bad that I lost to him. I'm a really bad soccer player. I've never played soccer in my life. Dana says, 'I'm going to give you $25,000 for the champion', and I was like, 'No way I lost to this guy right now!' I feel so bad about it, but I did my best.
Interviewer: On the bright side, you do have fighting to fall back on.
Wanderlei Silva: Yeah, and I'm so happy for that. At the moment, Dana White has made the sport so big, and to be a main event, it's a great honor for all fighters, and a great honor for me. I'm so happy to be back to the red line against Franklin. He's a tough guy and deserves respect for fighting in my home town against me, with just two weeks notice before the fight. He has all the respect from me and the fans because he saved the show. I still get to fight, and against a good guy, thanks to him.
Interviewer: With Rich Franklin directly ahead of you, does the rematch with Vitor go on hold, or is it completely out of the picture now?
Wanderlei Silva: Right now I think it's just about my next opponent. He's a really good fighter, and the last champion before Anderson Silva. He beat me in Germany, but the good news is that we made fight of the night in that show, and I hope we make fight of the night again in this one. Every time I fight, I try to fight for fight of the night or knockout of the night. I want to make my fans happy. They are the reason I'm in the octagon.
Interviewer: The respect level between you and Rich has obviously translated to your fanbase, and they will no doubt give him a warm reception in Brazil. How do you think Chael Sonnen's reception would be, were he to fight there?
Wanderlei Silva: [laughs] He talking, talking talking, but you know, I think the Brazilian fans would receive him very well. That's the great thing about MMA fans. We have close to 150 events, and never one case of aggression or things like that. I think they will be respectful of him over here. At least I hope so [laughs].
Interviewer: It's been a few years since Rich has had to come down in weight to fight. Do you feel that will be to your advantage this time around?
Wanderlei Silva: He's a real professional. Every time he fights, he fights good. I think he's going to come in ready for this fight. I'm training a lot right now, for him. I have a lot of responsibilities to my fans, and I really want to get this victory. With all of my heart and my mind, I want this victory.
Interviewer: What did you think of Vitor's wife talking smack to you on Twitter, and inserting herself in between the two of you like that?
Wanderlei Silva: That's good that she supports him, but we need to be careful when we talk in public like that. It's embarrassing for the guy when his girl goes and talks out about him like that. This is a man's fight. It's strange what she did. Sometimes it's better if you just be quiet. That kind of behavior doesn't need to be seen. I don't know why she wanted to say something like that from outside of their home. When you're inside the home, you can say whatever. Sometimes, the wife is the boss, but not here in my home. I am the boss. [laughs heartily]
We need to hold those beliefs. You don't expose the family. You don't expose their name. We need to be private, but in the public eye, she's famous here in Brazil. But for that business, our business, fights, we can do the talking. We can preserve and take care of ourselves.
Interviewer: Do you know if the fight with Vitor will happen next after the fight with Franklin?
Wanderlei Silva: I don't know. I said to him that he can run, but he cannot hide. At some time, the fight is going to happen. I'm ready for him right now. I'm right here. This guy, he says the craziest things. Sometimes I laugh alone in my car [laughs]. Unbelievable. I'm ready to kick his ass right now. This fight is definitely going to happen, I just don't know when.
Interviewer: What are your thoughts on Vitor's history with injuries and pulling out of fights?
Wanderlei Silva: I felt really bad. I trained one month in my gym. I have to be out from my home in this little apartment in California to train with Rafael Cordeiro for another month. I'm away from my family with just training and diet and these things. I'm working 24 hours a day. Then I travel to Brazil, one more month here. From the first day to right now, I have 100 fights (sparring sessions) just to fight him. Two or three weeks before, now this fight's not gonna happen. That makes me feel so sad. It's the reason I say some bad things.
He fought against Anthony Johnson, and after that he don't stop. We go to the show, and we're training, but you accepted the fight. That fight is the main event. You accepted, and on that day you need to be ready. You need to be professional, and be careful when you train. We signed the contract. The fans buy their tickets, they buy their plane fare, they buy their hotels to watch that fight. We need to respect these guys. On that day, we need to be ready.
Interviewer: When you went into the Cung Le fight, there were some that doubted your chin, and ability to finish him, especially since he's primarily a striker. When you not only took his best shots, but finished him, did that sort of signify a rebirth for you?
Wanderlei Silva: Oh yeah. I was so happy for that fight. He's a great fighter, and it was a great victory for me. He had only lost one fight, but he came back and beat the guy later. I proved that I can still fight. I wanted to make my fans happy with my performance. That victory was really important for me.
Now I get to fight again, and it's in my home town, against another great fighter. It's the main event. I'm having great moments in my career right now. I'm glad the UFC is giving me these opportunities.
Follow Wanderlei via his Twitter, @WandFC