'Spider' set for July 19 bout -- 20 pounds heavier
While celebrating Father's Day at a friend's barbecue in Redondo Beach, Calif., watching the sun descend in a pristine western sky, Ed Soares' phone lit up with a text message.
It was Dana White. The president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship needed the manager's star fighter, Anderson Silva.
Twelve hours later, Soares sat with the fresh-off-a-red-eye middleweight champion over breakfast. Discussion quickly turned to the feasibility -- and smarts -- of not only fighting with just a month's notice, but also doing so 20 pounds heavier than the Brazilian's normal competition weight. And not even for a title defense.
Just two days after jumping on the opportunity to get back in the cage, Silva acknowledged that the decision to fight at light heavyweight wasn't difficult.
"If the UFC asks me to do something, and it's within my capability to do so, I'm going to do it," he said. "I feel like I'm part of the UFC family and the head of the family asked me to fight. I'm in condition to fight, my coaches say I can fight -- I'm going to fight. I want to do whatever I can to help make UFC the No. 1 event around the world like it is."
Walking around at 212 pounds, the 6-foot-2 "Spider" is hardly an undersized middleweight. With an undefeated UFC record -- none of his six dominating victories lasted beyond two rounds -- Silva has shot to the top of most pound-for-pound lists. And a win against the serviceable, yet beatable, James Irvin (14-4, 1 NC) at 205 in July probably won't change anyone's mind.
Digesting a defeat, of course, would take Silva down a different road.
"If he loses, hey that's part of the game," Soares said. "Someone's going to lose. You got a 50 percent chance of losing. We're really not looking at it that way. We're up for the challenge ... and we're hoping that Anderson's going to walk out with his hand raised. I have faith that he's capable of doing that."
Though Silva has recently spent some time working with fighters like light heavyweight Rafael Feijao -- whom the UFC champ cornered to victory in EliteXC's fight in Honolulu on June 14 -- Soares admits his fighter was "cruising a little bit on vacation" before White's call.
"He feels with his coaching staff that he can be prepared within a month," said Soares, who also advises UFC heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, among others.
With no time to waste, Silva (21-4) returns to Brazil on Wednesday where he'll prepare at Black House, his gym in Rio de Janeiro. The most difficult trick for Spider: keeping his weight up while maintaining the quickness, power and energy that helped deliver knockout victories over Chris Leben, Nathan Marquardt and Rich Franklin -- twice.
Technically, the 29-year-old Irvin, who fits Soares' expectation of a strong striker at 205, isn't Silva's first opponent at this weight. In Pride, which featured only two divisions -- above and below 205 -- he faced some legitimate light heavyweight talent along the way. The experience also allowed the skinny southpaw to put on enough weight so he could compete at a bigger size without fear of getting run over.
Early in his career, Spider emerged on the international scene as a beanpole at 167 pounds. And it seemed to suit him, especially in his Shooto championship win against Hayato Sakurai in the summer of 2001.
Silva's extraordinary length at the lighter weights, including middleweight, made him a terror. Jabs came at the end of telephone poles, his long legs sliced air from across the ring and, on the canvas, his limbs often made for impossible puzzles. In heavier divisions, Silva's physical attributes will likely be less meaningful to winning than his striking accuracy, footwork and overall skill as a mixed martial artist. And he rates high in each category.
The July 19 SpikeTV fight is Silva's first on a new two-year, six-bout deal he signed with the UFC after being offered the bout. If all goes according to plan, Soares said, Silva could face another quick turnaround for a defense of his middleweight title against Yushin Okami on Sept. 6 in Atlanta.
"He's a middleweight," Soares said. "But when certain fights come up at 205 that make sense for him to do, he's going to do it. At this particular moment Dana asked him to fight and he accepted the challenge."
Josh Gross will periodically answer questions from SI.com users. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.