At 43 and with his United States Anti-Doping Agency case resolved last week, former middleweight champion and UFC legend Anderson Silva was cleared to return to the Octagon once his one-year suspension expires this fall.
Silva (34-8, 1 NC), whose suspension is retroactive to Nov. 10, 2017, when he failed a test for metabolites of methyltestosterone and hydrochlorothiazide ahead of his scheduled fight against Kelvin Gastelum, has already declared his intention to return.
USADA determined the cause of the failed test was a contaminated legal dietary supplement and Silva, just like his previous failed test following a victory (that was later changed to a no contest) against Nick Diaz in 2015, has denied knowingly taking any banned substance.
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Silva, who is just 1-4 since 2012 and hasn't fought since a disputed victory over Derek Brunson in February 2017, recently made the rounds on a media tour in hopes of restoring his name following a stretch of bad headlines which cast a shadow over his entire career. The native of Brazil spoke candidly on Monday with CBS Sports about what his future in the cage might look like and how he has dealt with public criticism, including that from former opponent Daniel Cormier.
When you came back from a nasty leg injury four years ago after your rematch against Chris Weidman, you famously posted a video saying, "I back, trust me I back." Is it safe to say you're back again?
AS: "I have been working hard to come back. I'm very excited and I'm very happy for the USADA decision. Everything is clean and now I move on. It's a great moment for me and my team and my family."
How relieved were you to get this off of your record in light of all the negativity which followed your failed test?
AS: "I am relaxed now because I never lied to my fans and my sponsors and my family. That's the point, that's what is important to me. I move on now, just keep going and continue my job and my dreams. That's what is more important to me."
Considering fighters like Junior dos Santos and Josh Barnett were also cleared by USADA in the past month after originally testing positive and serving suspensions, do you believe there's a larger issue at play with UFC's drug testing system?
AS: "It's very difficult to talk about that situation because my situation is different than Junior's and Barnett's is different about me and not the same. The more important is that when USADA talked to me about that situation, I gave them my support and gave them everything about supplements I am taking over my entire career. Now everything is clean, which is great. I'm happy. I need to say thanks to USADA because they gave me all the support and I'm happy now."
Did it ever cross your mind during your absence from the Octagon over the last 17 months that you may never fight again?
AS: "Fight is staying in my blood and in my heart too. I love martial arts. I come back to fight. I have a different plans and a different job now. I have my clothing line and my projects about the movies. I was scared that I won't come back to fight, but now I am clean and I love fight and I love UFC, and hopefully I will come back to fight soon."
What has been the hardest part about being away from fighting for so long?
AS: "I think the hard part in that situation is that I lose time. I'm not young, and it's very difficult because I lose money and lose time. It's hard, bro. It's very difficult for me to talk about that situation because I know it was completely my responsibility and the people from USADA talk to me, of course. Even if you don't take the supplement intentionally, you are responsible. I know everybody lost money; UFC lost money because I was not in the last fight but I lost money too. I lost money. It's tough bro, it's very hard."
How active were you in terms of working out and training while waiting for the USADA decision?
AS: "It's very hard to talk about that because it's very difficult. The same time I never put my energy down, but it's very difficult. I was training hard everyday and I'm happy now bro because I'm here and everything is coming back to the order. I'm very excited for back to fight."
What type of fights interest you most when you think about coming back?
AS: "I don't know, I just continue and I train everyday. I am working hard. I don't know. I'm very excited to be back. I don't know who I will be back to fight or who my next opponent will be, but I'm training hard and let's go see."
Are you more interested in getting back to a title shot or seeking out pay-per-view fights against other big names?
AS: "That's a good question. That's the question I go talk to my team now. After that, let's go see because I like pushing hard my mind and my body for challenge, but let's go see. I like to fight in my [weight] class, I like to sometimes take the super fight. But is it going to happen? Trust me."
What was your reaction to unbeaten middleweight prospect Israel Adesanya recently calling you out in hopes of securing a fight?
AS: "I don't know this name, this guy. I don't know who is this guy. I'm so sorry, but I don't know. I'll go check. But that's good, that's good. I don't know who this guy is, but now I'm just staying my focus on myself with me and my family and my team and my company. Let's go see. I don't know who is this guy, but I go check and I come back to talk to you about this guy."
You know the fans have always wanted you and Georges St-Pierre to one day share the Octagon. How realistic is that fight ever happening?
AS: "So, that's an interesting fight because Georges has a big name, I have a big name and that's an interesting fight. I think the old fans like to see this fight."
Have you spoken with UFC president Dana White about returning and, if so, what was his reaction?
AS: "You know, I don't talk to Dana. I don't talk to management a lot. It's hard talking about that situation because when USADA got the news about I failed a test, everybody don't talk to me, especially management and Dana White. Dana don't talk to me but I don't know why, and UFC don't talk to me. But that's OK, that's part of the life and part of the job and I move on now. I move on."
You have a style that is so dependent upon speed and reaction, so how hard is it to maintain that at 43 compared to your prime?
AS: "I'm fast, bro. I'm continuing to be fast, very fast. I'm excited to be back to fight for sure for my fans. The most important fact is timing. I think my timing is good and better as a fighter. Let's go see because I like the challenge."
There have been so many debates since you last fought about who is the greatest fighter in MMA history. In your opinion, who is the current G.O.A.T.?
AS: "In my personal opinion, it's BJ Penn. First of all because I'm a big fan and second one because BJ I believe and agree that he's the best fighter of all time -- ever."
Before Daniel Cormier defeated Stipe Miocic at UFC 226 and entered himself into the G.O.A.T. conversation, he mentioned that both you and Jon Jones can't be considered because of your histories with failed drug tests. How do you react to DC's comments?
AS: "So, it's very interesting because I take the fight against Daniel [on two days' notice at UFC 200 in 2016] and I had been training absolutely nothing for months and I had surgery already in my body and I took the fight in saving Daniel money because Jon Jones failed the test. But it's very interesting Daniel talking about that because when you have problems, everybody has problems. When you talk about people, you need to be careful because you never know about your life. You never know about your future. I think Daniel is very lucky and completely lucky because never beating Jon Jones, of course, because Jon Jones in my opinion is the best fighter at 205 [pounds]. When I took the fight, Daniel didn't do nothing. He was completely lucky. He was more lucky because I didn't take the fight for five rounds and just three, and he don't do nothing but just hit the ground and use his weight. Why are you talking? Why does Daniel talk? I respect, but Danny don't have to talk about that because I'm very sad about that. That's the first time I saw this news. I respect Danny, but when he is talking about me and Jon Jones, he's completely crazy because Jon Jones is the best fighter. I tried to make everything perfect inside the cage for my fans. I don't know but it's OK ... this is Daniel Cormier."
Speaking of Jones, do you believe that he should also be cleared by USADA in his upcoming hearing and be allowed to fight again in 2018?
AS: "I don't know. I love Jon Jones, he is my young brother and I hope he comes back fast."
When you look back over your 21-year career, which victory means the most to you?
AS: "The most important for me? Wow. The very first fight that was my first title belt in Japan when I fought Hayato Sakurai in Shooto [in 2001] because that's the first time in my life I represent my country and that's my first belt."
If you had to pick a single performance from your career that represents you at your absolute best and the very peak of your powers, what would you pick?
AS: "So for me, I think my perfect performance, I don't know if I have one but me and Chael, the first fight [at UFC 117 in 2010] is amazing because I hurt my ribs in training and the doctors say, 'You can't fight because that's very dangerous for you. I don't give the OK for you to fight. Don't go because it's very dangerous.' I know that I'm stupid and I make stupid decisions and I fight for Chael. That's an amazing fight because Chael beat me for five rounds, and the last [round] I just choked out Chael. That's the greatest in my life and the greatest memory for me, especially because Chael is a good fighter and a good wrestler, so that for me is an amazing fight in UFC. I have other ones but that is very incredible."
Sonnen is still taking on big challenges and is set to face fellow legend Fedor Emelianenko on Oct. 13 in the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix for a chance to eventually become their heavyweight champion. Who are you picking in that fight?
AS: "Fedor and Chael Sonnen! Wow. That's very interesting. I have all of my mind in Chael. Fedor is great and amazing and I respect, but I believe that Chael will win."