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Happy Birthday, Wanderlei Silva!

Happy Birthday, Wanderlei Silva!

“In my gym there were 200, 300 guys and only five who didn’t quit. I was one of them. There were many guys better than me, (but) they stopped, they didn’t believe in it. When I started fighting there wasn’t many events, there was no money. I went through a lot of hardship. But I always believed in it. And the wheel started to spin. Things started going, and now I have a wonderful life.”

It’s certainly been a wonderful fighting life for Wanderlei Silva, who offered this anecdote about his days as a young fighter at the famed Academia Chute Boxe in Curitiba, Brazil in a video for his 2013 team tryouts in Las Vegas.

“I want to give this to other guys, the same opportunities I had,” Silva finishes. “Who keeps believing in it, is getting somewhere, who doesn’t is already defeated.”

Today Wanderlei Silva, “The Axe Murderer” himself, turns 37 years old. What a day for great fight memories! We’re past Canada Day, and I know Independence Day is tomorrow for our American readers, but maybe this should be an international MMA holiday. (If nothing else, it’s worth taking a minute from our UFC 162 coverage, anyway.)

If you’re a fan of MMA, the 16 year long, 49 fight deep career of Wanderlei Silva has to mean something special to you. No fighter personifies sheer aggressiveness like Silva.

Maybe you’ll feel like watching one of his classic fights tonight; I’ve been there — I remember arguing who would win when Kazushi Sakuraba fought Wanderlei Silva back in 2001. (And hey, wonder of wonders, I was right about that one.) Maybe you’ll watch that one, or another of his battles that filled the Tokyo Dome to 50,000 strong in the glory years of the PRIDE organization. Or you could go even further, back to his old vale tudo days of bare-knuckle combat in Brazil. Or, maybe you know him mostly from his most recent fight, a memorable knockout of Brian Stann at UFC on Fuel TV in March. That aggression is just as advertised.

But there’s more to him than that. Maybe you’re watching something else from Wand’s YouTube channel this morning, like his touching tribute to his family in Brazil, recalling the sacrifices they made to help his career.

Maybe you’re planning a trip to Las Vegas and a visit to Wand’s gym, which is quite possibly the nicest MMA facility on the planet. Hey, I’ve been there, too.

Maybe you’re listening to that infamous “Sandstorm” ring walk theme, rolling your wrists while engaging in a menacing stare when you get your morning coffee. Maybe Wand’s going to do that tonight in front of a birthday cake. Maybe… I don’t want to be there for that.

My first thought to celebrate today was to take a look back at some of my favorite moments in this fighting legend’s career, which is now in its twilight. But instead, I think Wand may have wanted to divert the attention to his students, so I’m honoring that wish today.

In the tryout video, Wand offered consolation to those who failed in their tryout, mentioning that many have signed up for classes at the gym, and that he hopes to help them reach their potential, too. He remembers his own defeats. But when hundreds gave up, Wanderlei Silva didn’t. He kept the faith and it led to real action… and that was great news for him, and for MMA fans.

It seems it will be true of his students as well.

Happy birthday, Wanderlei Silva! Here’s to you and the next “Axe Murderer” generation.

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