MMA legend Wanderlei Silva announced Friday (Sept. 19) that he’s retiring, citing the UFC’s lack of respect for its fighters as the primary reason.
The 38-year-old veteran made the announcement in a 13-minute Youtube video, accusing the UFC of not respecting its athletes in general and paying them “crumbs,” reports ESPN.
“For those reasons, I come here with a very heavy weight in my heart,” Silva says. “Today is a very sad day for me. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep being treated this way. I am stepping down from the ring. After today, Wanderlei Silva will not fight again. My career is over because I don’t have the stage to perform where athletes get the proper respect.”
He coached opposite Chael Sonnen on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil at the beginning of the year, and the two were originally scheduled to fight in May in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but the bout was eventually rescheduled for UFC 175 on July 5 in Las Vegas.
Silva says the UFC repeatedly attempted to re-book the fight, although he insisted he wouldn’t be healthy enough until late in the year.
“They told me I had to fight on that date and offered me a bunch of money,” Silva explained. “I asked myself, ‘If they have the money, why didn’t they offer it to me before?’ They always hold on to the money so they underpay athletes… They kept pressuring me. I said I could only fight at the end of the year. They opened their eyes wide. I was not in the physical condition necessary to fight the July card. My body wasn’t responding and I couldn’t train.”
Both Silva and Sonnen were eventually pulled from the UFC 175 card. Silva said that injured fighters compete in the UFC all the time, but when their performances suffer, the promotion can “fire” them.
Silva made his professional MMA debut in 1996 and has fought exclusively within the UFC since December 2007. If he never fights again, he will retire with a 35-12-1 record, which includes 25 knockouts. He fought Tito Ortiz for the UFC light heavyweight championship in April 2000 at UFC 25, losing via a unanimous decision.
He never became champ in the UFC, although he was the Middleweight Champ in the PRIDE fighting promotion throughout the early 2000s.