Axe Murderer’s Legacy in PRIDE Earns Him Spot in Hall of Fame

February 22, 2024
2 months

Wanderlei Silva is a throwback to a different time in MMA. Long before the UFC officially established itself as the dominant brand in the sport, there were a few other colorful promotions that had a lasting impact on the sport. PRIDE, based out of Japan, would be the home for many future UFC stars and champions.

PRIDE hosted fights in a boxing ring and had a more brutal ruleset than the UFC. PRIDE allowed soccer kicks and grounded knees. Fighters who competed in that arena had to be prepared for everything. Silva, known by his fighter name, The Axe Murderer, won the PRIDE middleweight championship and defended the belt four times.

He also won the 2003 PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix and finished with the most wins in PRIDE history with 23. While Silva’s success didn’t translate to the UFC, he was inducted into the promotion’s Hall of Fame in the Pioneer Wing.

The UFC brought Silva back to honor him last Saturday in Las Vegas. It was a nice moment for Silva, who had had his battles with the UFC over the years. While the UFC sometimes can hold grudges, it was nice to see it honor someone who had such a large impact on the sport, even if most of his highlights happened outside of the promotion.

Toughness Carved Out by Military Service

Silva was a tough kid growing up in Curitiba, Brazil. Long before Silva was being paid to fight, he enjoyed taking part in street fights around where he grew up. Silva was able to hone his skills by developing a background in Muay Thai and kickboxing. Eventually, Silva’s life would carry him toward service in the Brazilian army.

Silva would end up developing a background in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Vale Tudo. Eventually, Silva would have his first professional fight during a bare-knuckle event in Brazil in 1996. Silva kicked off his long career with a first-round knockout of Dilson Filho.

That fight set off a pattern in Silva’s career. Most of his events ended inside the distance. Only 15 of his 51 professional fights saw the judges’ scorecards.

Flirtation with the UFC, Success with PRIDE

In the early days of MMA, there wasn’t as much concern about a fighter being exclusive to one promotion. While Silva debuted in the UFC with a knockout win over Tony Petarra at UFC 20 in May 1999, he soon found himself drawn to PRIDE. Following the win over Petarra, Silva had his next three fights with the Japanese promotion.

The UFC was able to lure Silva back to fight Tito Ortiz at UFC 25 for the light heavyweight championship, which Ortiz won via decision. Following the loss to Ortiz, Silva quickly returned to PRIDE and kicked off the best stretch of his career. Silva would go on an 18-fight unbeaten streak, marred by a no contest in which Silva landed an accidental groin kick that stopped Gilbert Yvel from competing and a draw with Mirko Cro Cop.

During this stretch, Silva became the PRIDE Middleweight champion and defended his belt four times. Mark Hunt stopped the unbeaten streak with a split decision in an open-weight bout in December 2004, according to the best MMA news site.

PRIDE Closes Doors; Silva Sees Time Catch Him

Silva lost his Pride Middleweight championship to Dan Henderson in February 2007 at PRIDE 33. Silva then decided to head back to the UFC. Initially, there was a lot of excitement for Silva coming over.

Silva’s first fight in the promotion, a three-round decision loss to Chuck Liddell, was named the Fight of the Year for 2008. Silva bounced back with a 36-second knockout of Keith Jardine in what would be the knockout of the year in 2008, but Silva would lose four of his next six fights.

Silva’s final fight in the UFC came in 2013 when he knocked out Brian Stamm in the second round. Ultimately, Silva would never be able to fight in Nevada again. He earned a lifetime ban from the Nevada State Athletic Commission in 2014 for running away from someone tasked with collecting a sample.

Silva would be forced to wait over four years to fight again. He was convinced to sign with Bellator and took on notorious trash talker Chale Sonnen in June 2017. Silva lost via decision. Silva’s last professional fight wrapped up his rivalry with Jackson.

Jackson won by second-round TKO, so their series was at two wins apiece.

UFC Ends Feud with Silva

Once the decision to induct Silva into the Hall of Fame was announced, there was some surprise because he had previously spoken negatively about the company. MMAfighting latest updates show that UFC CEO Dana White said following UFC 298 that he forgot that Silva was banned from the company. With the number of feuds White had over the years, while he was kidding in this case, some people along the way were treated poorly.

However, there are other factors to consider for why he would enter the Hall of Fame, according to MMA breaking news.

First, Silva is why many people started watching mixed martial arts. It is hard to know how big PRIDE could have become if it had more stable ownership. But as always, with the life experience someone lives through, Silva made his career by being one of the toughest fighters in Japan.

Silva’s Legacy in the Sport

Silva’s ability to push the pace and secure finishes made him one of the most exciting fighters in PRIDE history. While Silva’s run in the UFC wasn’t as prestigious, Silva was one of the true legends of PRIDE. Like many UFC alternatives, PRIDE eventually faded away over time.

But when Silva fought there, the UFC wasn’t a behemoth yet. There were a few divisions in PRIDE that may have rivaled or surpassed the UFC in terms of talent.

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By Dean McHugh.