Wanderlei Silva ‘officially retired’ from MMA, passing torch to son Thor Silva

Wanderlei Silva, Thor Silva and Cristiano Marcello | Photo via Marcello

Wanderlei Silva is ending his MMA career for good, but his lineage will continue with his 19-year-old son Thor Silva, who’s gearing up for an amateur MMA debut in Brazil.

“The Axe Murderer”, a former PRIDE FC champion and legend of the sport whose career dates back to the vale-tudo days in Brazil, announced on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca he has “officially retired” from MMA. Silva said the only chance he ever fights again will be in boxing.

Now, in addition to his ongoing political campaign, Silva said he’s focused on helping his first-born son kick off his own fighting career.

“Only those who have sons know how it’s like watching them fight,” Silva told MMA Fighting. “This feeling is completely different, but it’s very exciting because we know what it’s like and everything that can happen in a fight. I know where he can go, I’ve been through it all, and I know that what really counts is hard work. You may be the son of [someone important] or have as much money as you have, but hard work and training is what counts in there, and thank God he has behaved like a professional already.”

The 48-year-old veteran ends his career with a record of 35-14-1 plus one no contest. His long list of notable victims includes Michael Bisping, Dan Henderson, Kazushi Sakuraba (three times), Quinton Jackson (twice), Ricardo Arona, and Keith Jardine.

Thor is set to face fellow bantamweight rookie Paulo Rangel at Fight Music Show 2, a martial arts event scheduled for Sept. 25 at a 45,000-seat stadium in their hometown Curitiba. Thor admitted that the pressure of being the son of an MMA legend exists “a little bit,” but there’s plenty of positive aspects with it as well.

“He gets more nervous than I,” Thor said of his father, recalling his past victories in amateur kickboxing and boxing matches in Brazil. “We usually brought something to eat before the events and he always got too nervous and ate the whole thing [laughs]. I don’t get that nervous when I’m about to fight, I stay calm and relaxed, thinking about what I’m about to do. I don’t think it adds too much pressure, really.”

Thor joined CM System to prepare for his amateur MMA debut, working with jiu-jitsu specialist Cristiano Marcello, the man who awarded his father a black belt in the gentle art.

Marcello said he sees the 19-year-old “as a nephew” since he was the elder Silva’s coach at the time of Thor’s birth, and feels honoured to accept the “mission” of helping him “write his own story in the sport.”

“He has Wanderlei’s heart and DNA,” Marcello said, “but this kid has the modern MMA in him. He has Wanderlei’s aggressiveness, but more complete. Wanderlei had that strong Muay Thai DNA in him, and Thor has the MMA [DNA]. He accepts the ground game and wrestling more. This kid is very smart.

“The fruit never falls far from the tree. Thor will come with the Wanderlei spirit, with the modern aspect of the sport. Most importantly, regardless of who is his father, Wanderlei gave me a free hand to treat him as any other athlete. I think that’s important in his formation and evolution as an athlete in the sport. There are no differences. He’s in there with the team and has to survive. That’s how it works. That’s how Wanderlei and I were forged.”

Thor feels he’s gaining more experience in the grappling area working with Marcello after training with Evolução Thai leader Andre Dida in the past for his kickboxing and boxing contests, but still predicts a knockout victory at FMS 2.

“I’ll feel him out first, but I’m going there to fight, man,” he said. “I know what I do best, but if he takes me down and I see an arm or a neck there, I’ll take it.”

Silva said he too believes his son will knock out Paulo Rangel because Thor’s “hands are really good,” but he won’t be surprised if Thor chokes out his opponent with a triangle choke. In the end, Silva advised his son that “winning is more important than anything else.”

“If you can put on a show, great, but the sport is made of wins,” Silva said. “There’s no point being a great athlete that doesn’t win. You must win. You went there, you have to win. The secret of having success in this sport is winning.

“His main characteristic is that he’s brave and fearless. Last time he fought, I told him, ‘Son, go there and hit him. It’s better to hit first than getting hit.’ The fight started and he let his hands go. It’s a great thing that he’s brave and believes in his training to be prepared for everything.”

Being the son of a legend will likely open doors for Thor easier and quicker than other MMA newcomers, and he welcomes that. In Silva’s eyes, his son making an amateur debut in a soccer stadium in Curitiba at 19 years old shows “courage”, and the future is bright.

“There are many great promotions today like Bellator, RIZIN, and UFC, great promotions that give opportunity for the athlete to show their work and fight the best,” said Silva. “We’ll see how his career progresses and the opportunities that will present themselves, and we’ll choose the best path.”

Thor names Silva’s second knockout over Jackson in PRIDE, his final UFC win over Stann, and the knockouts over Sakuraba his all-time favorite highlights of his father, all of which took place in Japan.

As for his plans to make the transition to professional MMA, Thor still wants to compete in jiu-jitsu tournaments and more boxing bouts before he makes the call. And when that time comes, he just might choose his father’s old stomping grounds in Japan as his destination.

“I like the UFC, they pay real well,” Thor said, “but RIZIN is also very interesting because I like the rule set, right? If you go to the ground, there are soccer kicks and I like that idea. But I’ll see. I’ll have this amateur fight and feel it. But if one of them [calls me], I’d do it right away.”

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