Just days after his thrilling knockout victory over Alistair Overeem at UFC 156, Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva got the call that he's waited for but didn't necessarily expect so soon.
The former Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix participant was offered a shot at Cain Velasquez and the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 160 in May. He was more than happy to accept the offer, but wasn't sure even after his last win that it would come that quickly.
It all changed when he received word from the UFC that he would be the man to challenge Cain Velasquez in his first title defense since capturing the belt from Junior Dos Santos at UFC 155 late last year.
It was certainly a dream come true to be offered the shot, but just fighting for the belt isn't enough for Silva.
To truly realize his dream, he needs to win it.
"I was very happy, and that is being a part of the realization of my dream, and May 25th I will complete my dream and be champion," Silva told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview just after receiving the news about the title shot.
The fight with Velasquez goes beyond just the UFC heavyweight title—it also falls into the category of redemption. In May 2012 in his UFC debut, Silva fell victim to Velasquez losing by TKO in the first round after suffering a nasty cut that left him bleeding and unable to stop the barrage of punches coming from the former Arizona State wrestler.
When looking back on the fight, Silva doesn't regret the loss as much as he ponders why he wasn't able to stick to the strategy determined by his coaches to get him ready for the bout. As a matter of fact, Bigfoot plans on keeping his training almost identical as the last time he prepared for Velasquez.
The biggest difference is applying what he does in the gym to what he unleashes on fight night.
"I learned that I have to do what I trained with my coaches and follow the strategy," Silva answered when asked what he will do differently the second time around. "I will follow my strategy 100-percent and my training will be basically what I did in my first fight against Cain."
Since his loss to Velasquez last year, Silva has managed to knock out previously undefeated heavyweight prospect Travis Browne as well as his thunderous finish of Alistair Overeem at UFC 156.
The two emphatic victories catapulted Silva back into the title picture, and with his win against Overeem, he became the last man standing in the heavyweight contender's race.
Since the fight was announced, there have been some naysayers that didn't necessarily care for Silva's name being selected for a title shot. It had less to do with him being the No. 1 contender and more the fact that he had just lost to Velasquez two fights ago.
Silva is used to being the underdog and counted out, so this is nothing new. When he fought former Pride champion Fedor Emelianenko, most believed it was the Russian's time to triumph. That was until Silva blasted Emelianenko and dominated him en route to a TKO stoppage after two rounds.
The same odds were against Silva when he faced Overeem at UFC 156.
Overeem had all but been anointed as the next heavyweight title contender until Silva smashed his jaw with a series of right hands that left him crumpled against the cage and down on the mat. The Brazilian just knows how to overcome the odds.
That's one reason Silva welcomes the label of underdog, and he invites everyone to count him out. It's nothing he hasn't heard before, and he's happy to come out on top once again.
"I'm already used to it," Silva said about not being favored to defeat Velasquez. "It gives me more energy and will to win."
Silva will test his resolve in May when he gets his rematch with Velasquez, and a shot at becoming the new UFC heavyweight champion at UFC 160.
Damon Martin is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.
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