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Anderson Silva wants fights with UFC champs McGregor and Bisping – but won't fight Brit in England

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RIO DE JANEIRO – Former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva has a fight scheduled with Derek Brunson, but he’s also got his sights on a couple of different opponents.

One of them, as he said in the past, is current middleweight titleholder Michael Bisping, whom Silva dropped a decision to after a five-round battle at London’s O2 Arena in February 2016. The interest recently has been reciprocated by the champ, who, eyeing a “money fight” return in April or May, sees potential in the matchup.

The desire for a rematch, as Silva made clear Thursday during a media day inRio de Janeiro, remains intact. But he has one condition.

“I’m ready to fight, regardless of whom,” Silva said. “It’d be perfect to fight Bisping because something was left in the air. Not only with me, but with Dan Henderson too. I think if it were in a neutral place, I’d take it for sure. Regardless of a belt or anything, fighting Bisping would be interesting.”

Asked if that meant the ex-champ isn’t willing to face Bisping in England again, Silva was categorical.

“Of course not,” Silva said. “No doubt. No.”

Silva (33-8 MMA, 16-4 UFC), who thinks the outcome of the fight would have been different had it not taken place on Bisping’s (30-7 MMA, 20-7 UFC) turf, also spoke of another target of his, one who currently belongs to a (much) different division: lightweight champion Conor McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC).

“I’d like to test myself against Conor McGregor because he’s an interesting mixed martial artist,” Silva said. “His standup game is very intelligent. (I want to fight him) not because he’s the champ or anything, but the challenge of the martial artist.

“I’d like to see how that would be, that mix of striking techniques, his and mine, to see what would come from it. But it’s not about the belt. It’s more about the challenge, the interest in knowing how that fight would go.”

According to Silva, if the matchup ever comes to fruition, it’d probably take place at a catchweight of 176 to 178 pounds – a weight the Brazilian striker said he can “easily” make. Silva previously told a Brazilian TV show he would consider the possibility of going to welterweight but now says he got as light as 174 pounds on a test run before cutting it short.

While Silva has been a lifelong middleweight, with a 3-1 record in the UFC’s upper 205-pound division, McGregor has spent the majority of his octagon career at featherweight, where he won the title before taking the 155-pound crown to become a two-division champ. Between the two titles sat a 1-1 welterweight run against Nate Diaz.

Speculations aside, Silva’s reality is now a matchup with Brunson (16-4 MMA, 7-2 UFC), the No. 9 fighter in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA middleweight rankings, at UFC 208, which takes place Feb. 11 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

In spite of coming off a winless streak of more than three years, which included a win-turned-no-contest against Nick Diaz following drug failures by both fighters, honorable mention Silva remains one of the biggest draws in the UFC and is still widely considered one of the all-time best in the sport.

Brunson, in turn, isn’t a top draw but still has serious knockout power, and he finished four opponents during a recent five-fight winning streak, Most recently, though, Robert Whittaker stopped him via first-round TKO. While a win over a big name like Silva could really be a game-changer for Brunson, the matchup seems to offer more risk than reward for Silva.

So why did he take it?

“The challenge,” he said. “(He’s) eight years younger than me. He had his defeat, but he was coming off wins. I like the challenge.

“I don’t really care about rankings or standings or fighting style. I like fighting. I love doing this. It will be a new challenge, and I hope I can bring this positive result to Brazil and to my team.”

Brunson, Silva said, was actually the only name who was effectively presented to him. And that includes a certain top middleweight contender who’s recently complained about being told by UFC officials he wasn’t a “big enough” name to face the ex-champ: Gegard Mousasi (41-6-2 MMA, 8-3 UFC).

“It never came to me that Mousasi wanted to fight me,” Silva said. “But it’s something that can happen. I respect him a lot. I respect his work. I think he has a great name. He’s a great athlete, but his name didn’t come to me.”

After a record-breaking 10 straight title defenses, a major upset loss, a gruesome injury, a tough comeback and a doping suspension, Silva has lived through enough stages in his UFC career that he seems to be past looking for the pot of gold.

So what keeps “The Spider” going?

“You said it all: (I’ve) accomplished everything,” Silva said. “Now I just want to have fun – to have fun and do what I love. There’s no pressure. I think I’ve been through every phase in this sport. I’ve won, I’ve lost, and I’ve been injured.

“Now it’s about doing what I love, staying true to myself, without worrying about what people will say.”

For more on UFC 208, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.



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