Disillusioned Wanderlei Silva retires

ByBrett Okamoto ESPN logo
Saturday, September 20, 2014

Veteran mixed martial artist Wanderlei Silva announced his retirement in a 13-minute YouTube video on Friday, citing disillusionment with his employer, the UFC, as the primary reason.

A former Pride middleweight champion, Silva, 38, said the UFC tried to get him to accept a fight when he wasn't healthy earlier this year. He accused the No. 1 fight promotion of not respecting its athletes in general and paying them "crumbs."

"For those reasons, I come here with a very heavy weight in my heart," Silva said. "Today is a very sad day for me. I can't do this anymore. I can't keep being treated this way. I am stepping down from the ring. After today, Wanderlei Silva will not fight again. My career is over because I don't have the stage to perform where athletes get the proper respect."

UFC officials declined comment to ESPN.com.

Silva (35-12-1) is currently involved in a matter with the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The NSAC will rule on Sept. 23 whether or not to move ahead with a disciplinary hearing regarding Silva's decision to dodge a random drug test in Las Vegas earlier this year. Silva, through his attorney Ross Goodman, has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.

The Brazilian fighter did not address his status with the NSAC in the video Friday. He has previously stated he denied the random test because he was taking banned diuretics at the time, which he claims were taken to decrease swelling caused by a wrist injury.

Silva, who made his professional MMA debut in 1996 and has fought exclusively within the UFC since December 2007, coached opposite Chael Sonnen on "The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil" at the beginning of the year. He was originally scheduled to fight Sonnen on May 31 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but the bout was eventually rebooked to UFC 175 on July 5 in Las Vegas.

According to Silva, the UFC repeatedly attempted to book the fight despite his insistence he wouldn't be able to compete until late in the year.

"They told me I had to fight on that date and offered me a bunch of money," Silva said. "I asked myself, 'If they have the money, why didn't they offer it to me before?' They always hold on to the money so they underpay athletes.

"They kept pressuring me. I said I could only fight at the end of the year. They opened their eyes wide. I was not in the physical condition necessary to fight the July card. My body wasn't responding and I couldn't train."

Both Silva and Sonnen were eventually pulled from the UFC 175 card due to licensing issues.

Silva went on to say that injured fighters compete all the time in the UFC, and when their performances suffer, the UFC can "fire" them.

He pointed to former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao, who was scheduled to fightTJ Dillashawat UFC 177 last month. Barao, who had lost the belt to Dillashaw three months prior at UFC 173, passed out while cutting weight and was replaced by Joe Soto. Barao was not paid either his show or win money for the bout.

"He could not stop training," Silva said. "He lost the belt, then had to fight a rematch. After that, his body couldn't hold up and he passed out cutting weight. What did the promoters do? Bash and mock him. They referred to him as a kid in the media. This makes me angry. This makes me look at the sport in a different way."

Silva is likely to remain on the NSAC agenda on Sept. 23. Should he never compete again, he will retire with a 35-12-1 overall record, including 25 knockouts. He fought Tito Ortiz for the UFC light heavyweight championship in April 2000, and lost via decision. He enjoyed a successful career fighting in Japan before returning to the UFC in 2007, where he compiled a final record of 5-7. Silva was born in Curitiba, Brazil, and currently resides in Las Vegas.

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