Wanderlei Silva is an anomaly in professional sports, a bona fide star who isn't one of his organization's top competitors.

It's Kobe Bryant who is the Lakers' biggest star, not Antawn Jamison. It's Sidney Crosby who is the Pittsburgh Penguins' biggest attraction, not Craig Adams. And it's Tom Brady who is the fan favorite for the New England Patriots, not Danny Woodhead.

Silva occupies a special place in the hearts of MMA fans and, even though it's been more than six years since he's won back-to-back fights, remains one of the UFC's biggest stars.

He returns to Japan on Saturday, the place where he blossomed into a superstar while in the PRIDE Fighting Championships, to fight Brian Stann in a middleweight bout that will be the main event of UFC on Fuel 8 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama.

Silva is just 5-6 in his UFC career and has never won consecutive UFC bouts. The last time he won two in a row anywhere was in 2005 and 2006, when he scored wins over Ricardo Arona and Kazuyuki Fujita in PRIDE matches.

No matter, though. When Silva is introduced by Bruce Buffer before the start of Saturday's bout with Stann, he'll be greeted as he is just about everywhere he goes: as a conquering hero.

"There aren't many moments in sports like it, being in the main event [of a fight card] and having the crowd cheering so much," Silva said.

At a time when UFC officials are looking to dramatically shed their roster, Silva continues to be one of its top attractions despite a record that, in other circumstances, would put him squarely on the chopping block.

With the new fighters the UFC has signed and the absorption of nearly 60 fighters from Strikeforce, the UFC has about 475 fighters contracted when it needs no more than about 350-375.

[Related: Window closing on Brian Stann's UFC title hopes]

As a result, there is a purge underway that has led to the release of some big names, none more notable than welterweight Jon Fitch.

Silva, though, said he doesn't give that a second thought. And though he's just 3-7 in his last 10 outings, Silva won't fight any differently against Stann than he did in any of his previous 48 bouts.

It's because if ever there were a heart-and-soul fighter, it is Wanderlei Cesar da Silva.

He's the infielder who dives into the stands chasing a foul pop, the forward who will jump in front of a 100 mph slap shot to prevent a goal.

He's all out at all times, an attitude he constantly expresses to his Las Vegas-based fight team.

"You can't fight like a machine, like you are worried about what the promoter is going to think," Silva said. "[UFC president] Dana [White] isn't really the one who is going to [cut] you. You cut yourself. I talk to my guys and I tell them, 'You have to fight in a way that you don't give the promoter a choice but to bring you back.' If you go out and make a show and put your heart on the line every time, the people will respond to that and the promoter won't be able to say anything."

Silva is so beloved by the fan base that many are fearful for his safety. He's 34-12-1 with a no-contest, and has scored 24 wins by knockout. More significantly to his fans, though, is that he's been knocked out six times himself, often violently.

[Also: Rousey-Carmouche a pay-per-view success]

But he's coming off a Fight of the Night loss to Rich Franklin at UFC 147 in which he didn't sustain much damage. The fight before that was a one-sided victory over Cung Le at UFC 139 that was a co-Fight of the Night along with the epic Dan Henderson-Mauricio "Shogun" Rua bout.

Silva doesn't know Stann that well personally, but he's eager to face him on Saturday because he believes Stann is the same heart-and-soul fighter he is.

"He is a great person and did many good things in the military," Silva said of Stann. "His style is great, too. He likes to go to war. This is a match the fans will love, trust me."

When Wanderlei Silva is involved, win or lose, that's almost always true.

Boxing video from Yahoo! Sports:

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Can NFL teams ask Manti Te'o if he's gay?
Ryan Howard, the most under-appreciated, undervalued name in fantasy
Gonzaga students are already excited about the possibility of being No. 1
Teen soccer star fulfills mom's dying wish

view original article >>
Report here if this news is invalid.

Related News

Junior dos Santos: MMA and UFC are 'bigger than boxing now'

  • 26 days ago
  • 0 views

The former UFC heavyweight champion feels, the UFC and MMA in general have become bigger than the sweet science. read news >>

Headline Hunting: What's next for Wanderlei Silva? Morgan, Ferraro weigh in

  • 13 days ago
  • 1 views

With his lifetime ban now lifted, does vet Wanderlei Silva still have a future in MMA as a fighter? It’s one of the topics that MMAjunkie’s Joe Ferraro and John Morgan discuss this week in “Headline read news >>

Chris Weidman's critics are missing the boat; UFC middleweight champ is no fluke (Yahoo Sports)

  • 9 days ago
  • 12 views

From Yahoo Sports: After toppling another Brazilian legend, Chris Weidman shouldn't have to take a backseat to anyone. read news >>

Brandon Halsey planning to 'overwhelm' Kendall Grove at Bellator 137

  • 18 days ago
  • 2 views

"The Bull" says Kendall Grove brings a lot to the table, but he will bring the better hand in the main event of Bellator 137. Brandon Halsey isn't much of a fan of being interviewed. And when MMAmani read news >>

Why Daniel Cormier shouldn't get comfortable as UFC light heavyweight champ (Yahoo Sports)

  • 10 days ago
  • 3 views

From Yahoo Sports: Cormier submitted Anthony Johnson, but that doesn't mean much with Jon Jones on the sidelines. read news >>

Chris Weidman%26#x2019;s goal is simple: to be the best ever (Yahoo Sports)

  • 13 days ago
  • 0 views

From Yahoo Sports: The UFC middleweight champ, who fights Vitor Belfort on Saturday, isn’t fazed by his opponent’s PED history. read news >>

Why Mark Munoz is walking away from fighting before reaching his ultimate goal (Yahoo Sports)

  • 21 days ago
  • 1 views

From Yahoo Sports: Munoz isn't walking away on top, but he's doing it on his terms and for the right reason. read news >>

Why Carlos Condit calls ACL tear 'lucky' and how injury changed his approach (Yahoo Sports)

  • 5 days ago
  • 3 views

From Yahoo Sports: After more than a year off, fan favorite Condit is set to shake up the welterweight title picture. read news >>

A resurrected Anthony Johnson hopes to be crying after UFC 187 (Yahoo Sports)

  • 14 days ago
  • 2 views

From Yahoo Sports: Cut just a few years ago, Anthony Johnson is back in UFC, with a title shot that has him thinking back on all that his grandfather taught him. read news >>

Bonus watch! UFC 187 'Johnson vs. Cormier' award winner predictions tonight in Las Vegas

  • 11 days ago
  • 0 views

UFC brings a scintillating line up of fights to "Sin City" tonight (May 23, 2015) for what should be a thrilling night of MMA action inside MGM Grand Garden Arena. There is bound to be a few fighters read news >>