Childhood & Early Life
Wanderlei César da Silva was born on July 3, 1976, in Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil. At the age of 13, he started learning kickboxing and Muay Thai at the ‘Chute Boxe Academy’ in Curitiba. During his late teens, he joined the Brazilian army and moved up the ranks rather quickly, thanks to his fighting skills.
While serving the army, he was asked to learn Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Vale Tudo. From 1997 to 1999, he participated in Brazil’s MMA promotion ‘International Vale Tudo Championship’ (IVC). He competed at various ‘IVC’ events and won five out of six fights. On April 27, 1999, he defeated Eugene Jackson to win the Cruiserweight belt in ‘IVC 10.’
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Silva made his ‘UFC’ debut at ‘UFC Brazil: Ultimate Brazil’ on October 16, 1998. He lasted only 44 seconds into the fight as he was knocked out by Vitor Belfort. On May 7, 1999, Silva knocked out Tony Petarra in his second UFC match.
On September 12, 1999, Silva made his debut in ‘PRIDE’ where he took on Carl Ognibene. From 1999 to 2004, he won 18 fights in a twenty-fight unbeaten streak in the middle weight division of ‘PRIDE.’ His unbeaten streak includes a draw against Mirko Cro Cop and a no contest against Gilbert Yvel.
Meanwhile, Silva was given an opportunity to fight Tito Ortiz for the ‘UFC Light heavyweight Championship’ at ‘UFC 25: Ultimate Japan 3’ on April 14, 2000. At the end of the fifth and final round, the unanimous decision made by the judges went against him.
Silva’s five year-winning streak in ‘PRIDE’ came to an end on December 31, 2004, when he was defeated by Samoan fighter Mark Hunt. Nevertheless, Silva’s impressive performance in 2004 earned him ‘Fighter of the Year’ honors from ‘Wrestling Observer Newsletter’ (WON) and ‘Sherdog.’
His first loss in the middleweight division of ‘PRIDE’ came against Ricardo Arona on August 28, 2005. His loss against Arona was criticized by many and his status as the Middleweight Champion came under debate. On December 31, 2005, Silva won his rematch against Arona via split decision.
On September 10, 2006, Mirko Cro Cop knocked out Silva during the ‘Heavyweight Grand Prix’ semi-finals at the 10th year of ‘Pride Fighting Championships.’ On February 24, 2007, Silva defended his ‘PRIDE’ middleweight title against Dan Henderson. Silva ended up losing his title as he was knocked out by Henderson in the third round of the fight.
In August 2007, Silva signed a contract with ‘UFC.’ After months of speculation about Silva’s opponent in his comeback ‘UFC’ match, the former ‘PRIDE’ middleweight champion faced Chuck Liddell on December 29, 2007 at ‘UFC 79: Nemesis.’ Silva lost the fight via unanimous decision.
On May 24, 2008, he faced Keith Jardine at ‘UFC 84: Ill Will’ in Las Vegas. He won the match by knocking Jardine out and also won the ‘Knockout of the Night’ award for his performance. At ‘UFC 92: The Ultimate 2008,’ Silva faced Quinton Jackson, whom he had defeated twice in ‘PRIDE.’ Jackson avenged his previous losses by knocking Silva out in the first round of the match.
In 2009, Silva announced that he would not fight until 2010 owing to his facial surgery. After recovering from his facial reconstructive surgery, Silva faced Michael Bisping in the middleweight division at ‘UFC 110’ on February 21, 2010. At the end of the third and final round, Silva was declared winner via unanimous decision. The victory was Silva’s first in almost two years.
In July 2010, Silva underwent knee surgery which kept him out of action until 2011. On July 2, 2011, Silva faced Chris Leben at ‘UFC 132.’ Leben won the match by knocking Silva out in the first round. At the end of the match, ‘UFC’ President Dana White was asked about Silva’s possible retirement. White replied by saying that the decision is left for Silva to make. However, he also said that it was the best time for him to retire.
Silva continued fighting and took on former ‘Strikeforce’ champion Cung Le on November 19, 2011. During the fight, Silva broke Cung Le’s nose and the match was stopped by the referee. Dana White revealed in the press conference that Cung Le had to be taken to the hospital.
In 2014, Silva refused to undergo a random drug test. He also refused to submit an application to fight in Nevada, USA. As a result, ‘Nevada State Athletic Commission’ handed him a lifetime ban and asked him to cough up $70,000 as fine. In May 2015, Silva’s lifetime ban was overturned by Judge Kerry Earley.
In 2016, Silva signed a multi-fight contract with ‘Bellator MMA.’ He made his ‘Bellator’ debut on June 24, 2017, when he faced Chael Sonnen. Silva went on to lose the fight via unanimous decision. On September 29, 2018, he faced Quinton Ramone Jackson at ‘Bellator 206’ and lost the match in the second round.
Other Major Works
Apart from his fighting skills, Wanderlei Silva is also known for his acting skills. In 2012, he appeared in the American comedy film ‘Here Comes the Boom.’ Directed by Frank Coraci, the film starred Kevin James, Salma Hayek, and Henry Winkler in important roles.
In 2005, Silva played Vandarei Shiuba in a Japanese film titled ‘Nagurimono: Love & Kill.’ In 2018, he played Chud in the American martial arts film ‘Kickboxer: Retaliation.’ Directed by Dimitri Logothetis, the film had other popular sportsmen, such as Rico Verhoeven, Renato Sobral, Ronaldinho, and Maurício Rua.