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UFC 97: Two careers hang in the balance

Story by Anthony Springer Jr

UFC 97: Redemption may be one for the MMA history books. Two careers hang in the balance and a champion finds himself in a quest to tie one UFC record—most consecutive title attempts, and break another—nine consecutive Octagon victories.

In the night’s main event, Anderson “The Spider” Silva will ride an eight fight UFC winning streak into his middle weight title showdown with Thales Leites. The man that many label the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world will likely be out to send a message.

Silva’s last title defense against Patrick Cote ended in disappointment when Cote suffered a freak knee injury, abruptly halting the bout. In the days following the contest, Silva was subsequently criticized for allegedly not taking the fight to Cote and accused of looking “bored” in the Octagon. However, Silva vehemently denies allegations of boredom and insists he’s never lost the desire to perform to the best of his abilities.

“On the contrary to what people believe, I was very motivated for that Patrick Cote fight,” Silva said via his translator, Ed Soares. “My motivation is to be one of the best mixed martial artists of all time. I’m very motivated for this fight, everybody always mentions that I’m one of the best fighters, having that type of label on me makes me very motivated. It motivates me to show my coaches and the world that I can do everything I’ve trained to do in the fight. That’s what motivates me to go out and give my best performance.”

One of the things that makes Silva such a dangerous opponent is the fact the doesn’t look past an opponent and approaches every fight as though it could be the last one. When asked about a possible return to light heavyweight competition, the Team Blackhouse fighter didn’t rule it out, but quickly refocused himself on Thales Leites.

“I would love to fight again at 205,” Silva explained. “That’s going to depend on the results after April 18 and on Dana White. He makes the call on that stuff. As of right now, I’m focused on April 18.”

On the other side of UFC 97’s main event will be Thales Leites, a little known but very dangerous jiu-jitsu fighter. At an impressive 14-1, Leites list of casualties includes Drew McFedries, Nate Marquardt, and Pete Sell. While Leites is not likely to wilt under the pressure of his headlining status, he is well aware that the stakes will be high come April 18.

“Physically, I don’t think that I have ‘something special’ that I do better than him. A fight is a fight and Anderson is well rounded. Anything can happen during a fight. I know that I can do it. This is the fight of my life and I don’t want to let it go.

“I’m an Anderson fan because he looks for the knockout every single time and I like looking for the submission. This will be a very interesting fight.”

No matter who wins the main event, “The Spider” is certain of only one thing going into Redemption’s  main event.

“The most important thing is, whether I win or lose, this belt is going to stay in Brazil.”

The amount of reverence Silva and Leites show each other is not present in the evening’s co main event—a much anticipated light heavyweight showdown between former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell and former Pride standout Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

“The Iceman” is looking to re-insert himself in the title picture at 205, and looks to make an example of Rua.

“I’m planning on coming out and performing like I usually do,” Liddell said. I’m planning on knocking [Shogun] out.”

After suffering a disappointing loss in his UFC debut against Forrest Griffin and a lackluster victory against Mark Coleman at UFC 93, “Shogun” looks at Liddell as the foundation to the next chapter in his legacy.

“I intend to give my best in this fight and hopefully this will be the next great stage in my career.”



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