No matter what happens this Sunday at UFC Liverpool, Claudio ‘Hannibal’ da Silva, who returns to the cage after three-and-a-half-year layoff, will certainly serve as an example for many other professional fighters when it is said and done. In an exclusive interview with Ag. Fight, the Brazilian, who faces Nordine Taleb in the featured prelim in the English city, opened up about his struggles, such as overcoming a prison stint in England and healing up his injuries.
Silva arrived in Europe at age 23 in 2006 to live with his aunts. While the BJJ expert had success in sports early on, struggles outside the cage would delay his rise to the top.
“I didn’t speak English”, Silva said. “I wanted to learn, I came here and… I fell in a hole. I didn’t know how to speak English – I came with a tourist visa, I stayed for a year, I ended up overextending the tourist visa, and so I was arrested in London because that was illegal. I was arrested for being an illegal immigrant. I asked for political asylum, they finally released me and I asked to go back to Brazil, paying for my ticket”.
“I was away from England for a year, then I came back again. This time, I got the visa and my career was all here. I fought in India [for the Super Fight League in 2012] and in Brazil [already in the UFC, in 2014]. So, I consider England to be my second home”, continued Silva.
Now an English resident, Silva began to focus on his MMA training, although he never left jiu-jitsu aside. With nine wins and one loss on his record, he received a call from the UFC to fight Brad Scott – who, coincidentally, now also featured on the UFC Liverpool card. Silva won, and then notched another victory against top welterweight Leon Edwards, who is now set to face “Cowboy” Cerrone next month at UFC Singapore.
So, Silva had started a respectable ascent through the UFC’s ranks when injury struck. Training at American Top Team in Florida, Silva felt his left foot crack as he threw a kick. Taken to the doctor by team leader Marcus ‘Conan’ Silveira, Silva learned that the injury was so complicated that he’d need surgery. He ended up going under the knife four times.
“I wasn’t able to walk for four or five months”, Silva said. “I had a lot of headaches, I couldn’t walk properly, I wanted to go back to training and I couldn’t do it. I got anxious because of it, frustrated, I ended up eating too much and blew up to well over 200 pounds”.
His last opponent in the UFC, Leon Edwards, is now ranked 14th in the division. Having already defeated ‘Rocky’, the Brazilian believes he could even be above the Englishman now if it hadn’t been for his long break.
“I was forced to stop, but I’m sure that if I had been fighting, if it hadn’t been for this injury, I’d be in the top five now”, Silva said. “I have everything that’s needed to get into the rankings, and that hasn’t changed. I’m in the best shape of my life and very happy to fight again. For me, it’s more important to fight than even to live or breathe. I want this fight more than anything. For me, it’s already a great victory to return at a high level. It’s a great victory”.