Wanderlei Silva before (bottom) and after (top) plastic surgery recently.

Wanderlei Silva is the former Pride middleweight champion and he was one of the biggest fan favorites in the sport in his day. He was beloved for his vicious style in the ring, and his humbleness and humor outside of it.

The UFCEdit

After most recently defeating Michael Bisping via unanimous decision in his middleweight debut, Wanderlei was set to face off against Yoshihiro Akiyama but approximately two weeks before the fight, he was forced to pull out due to suffering fractured ribs in training. Chris Leben, who had fought mere days earlier at the TUF 11 finale himself, agreed to replace Wanderlei.

A bout between Silva and Leben was long rumored but didn't come to fruition. Silva was next set to face Brian Stann who had recently defeated Leben but the bout was called off. Silva was then confirmed to be facing Leben finally.

Before the fight with Leben, Silva was quoted as saying: "Leben won't make it out of the second round. It will be fight of the year." Leben knocked Silva out twenty-nine seconds into the first round. After the loss, UFC president Dana White indicated that Silva was probably going to be forced to retire.

Instead, Silva next stepped in to replace injured rival Vitor Belfort against UFC newcomer and former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le. Silva put up a vintage performance after a tough first round, knocking Le out with a brutal flurry of knees and punches in the second round.

Wanderlei next agreed to coach on the all-Brazilian season of The Ultimate Fighter against his rival and former UFC light-heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort. Belfort and Wanderlei would then fight a rematch at the end of the show's run. Belfort suffered a broken hand mere weeks before the fight was scheduled to take place in late May 2012, after filming of the reality show had ended.

Former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin stepped in to replace Belfort in a rematch of his 2009 bout with Wanderlei. The bout would again take place at a 195-pound catchweight and it would again be a main event (at UFC 147 instead of UFC 99). The most essential difference was that this time the fight would take place over five possible rounds and twenty-five possible minutes. Franklin defeated Silva via unanimous decision after a back-and-forth contest.

After a brief hiatus, Silva signed in December 2012 to face heavy hitter Brian Stann at light-heavyweight. The fight took place at the start of March 2013. Stann and Silva brawled it out for nearly ten minutes in an early candidate for 2013's Fight of the Year before Silva knocked Stann unconscious. Stann was heartbroken and retired after the loss but there could be no doubt that he and Silva had both earned thousands of new fans.

After the fight, Wanderlei stated that he wanted to stay at light-heavyweight and take it one fight at a time even as middleweight slugger Tom Watson called him out.

After a layoff of several months Wanderlei feuded heavily with multi-divisional contender Chael Sonnen before finally signing in October 2013 to coach opposite Sonnen on the third season of The Ultimate Fighter. The two would of course fight at the end of the show's airing.

They ended up fighting on the show though the general fan consensus was that the encounter had been scripted..

Doping TroublesEdit

Wanderlei ended up being pulled out of the fight in late May 2014 to the surprise of no one and replaced by Vitor Belfort. Silva had tested positive for steroids. Sonnen himself then tested positive as well and the fight was scrapped altogether. Sonnen then retired from MMA.

After several months Silva also retired from MMA in September 2014, stating that the UFC had taken away his desire to fight. He was fined $70,000 by the NSAC and banned from Nevada MMA for life. UFC president Dana White then banned Silva from the UFC Hall of Fame for life.

Rizin and BellatorEdit

About three years after the doping debacle, Silva finally settled his legal troubles with the UFC. He secured his release from the oppressive contract and was rumored to compete with either Bellator or Rizin which was the spiritual successor to Pride in Japan.

In mid-July 2016 Silva was confirmed to be fighting old rival Mirko Filipovic in a 16-man openweight tournament in Rizin. The fight was confirmed once again in September 2016 to take place in December 2016. Unfortunately Silva was injured and replaced by Muhammed Lawal.

Several months later Silva signed for a June 2017 Bellator debut fight against Chael Sonnen in the biggest Bellator event to date on pay-per-view in Madison Square Garden.