‘Bigfoot’ Silva Says UFC 146 Debut Against Velasquez ‘A Dream Come True’


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Though still an unknown commodity to many casual observers, Antonio Silva has steadily seen his stock rise as a legitimate heavyweight talent while competing outside the UFC.

After stumbling in his 2009 Strikeforce debut against Fabricio Werdum, “Bigfoot” recovered with a trio of victories, topping ex-UFC champ Andre Arlovski, Mike Kyle and onetime Pride Fighting Championships kingpin Fedor Emelianenko. The massive Brazilian suffered a first-round knockout at the hands of Daniel Cormier last September, but now looks toward his UFC debut against Cormier’s teammate, Cain Velasquez. Silva locks horns with the former UFC belt holder Saturday night at UFC 146.

While Silva says that his loss to Cormier in the Strikeforce grand prix semifinals served as a disappointing end to his tenure in the hexagon, “Pezao” is now solely focused on making a good impression when he steps into the Octagon tonight at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

“[Fighting in the UFC] is a dream come true,” said Silva during a recent media teleconference. “It’s a dream that any athlete in our sport wants to live out, and everybody can be sure that on the 26th of May, I will give out a great fight.”

Though many expect big things from the big man as he embarks on his UFC career, Silva says he feels little pressure prior to his clash with the highly-regarded former champion.

“It’s always difficult, because I believe that the best fighters in the world in my category are in the UFC, but I’m very relaxed and feeling very well,” said Silva. “It’s a great opportunity that the UFC is giving me for my first fight against one of the top [heavyweights] in the world. I’m the underdog in this fight, and it takes a lot of responsibility off my back, so I feel very comfortable with that.”

Now making his home in Florida, Silva returned to his former camp at American Top Team to prepare for his clash with Velasquez. Though Pezao insists he still officially represents Rio de Janeiro’s Team Nogueira, the heavyweight says he received excellent training on the mats of ATT.

“One of my managers [Dan Lambert] is also owner of American Top Team,” said Silva. “He helped me bringing in top wrestlers -- one guy that's a two-time world champion wrestler -- and some big strikers from Holland. It has made things easier for me here so I don’t have to be away from my family during the camp.”

Silva is as well-known among fans for his massive frame as he is for his potent jiu-jitsu game and devastating ground-and-pound. However, prior to his upcoming bout, Silva enlisted the help of ex-fighter and nutrition guru Mike Dolce. Silva says that Dolce has helped him stay lean, a fact that the Brazilian believes will behoove him on fight night.

“Things are going really well for the first time before a fight. I’m feeling very light and fast,” said Silva. “Cain Velasquez is a lighter and much faster fighter and is diametrically opposed to my strong points, which are my strength and my jiu-jitsu. I will try to come in a little bit lighter to be able to counter his speed and his lightness. I think that will be favorable to me.”

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