Few figures in all sports value their fans as much as Wanderlei Silva.
In fact the veteran Brazilian, infamously ferocious inside the cage, refers to his fans as ‘friends’. He never turns down a request for an autograph or a photo and he has on several occasions refused requests from Expo organisers to leave his table while there is a queue of fans remaining to meet him.
Silva has a fight with Vitor Belfort coming up this summer, a rematch of their 1998 fight which ended in a 44-second TKO loss for him. Belfort is the favourite to win again but, as he explains in his latest video diary, Silva hopes to inspire his fans around the world.
“Having come from where I came from, and being who I am, God has been really good to me. By giving me a gift, with which, I've built up my entire life. I am very proud of that. And I hope to awaken this gift in an entire generation,” he says.
“I've heard many people say they started to watch MMA after they saw a fight of mine. Or after they met me. There are people who watch my videos to train. There's the guys, who don't know who I am, then look at my fight and say 'Wow, who is this guy? I'm going to cheer for him!”
“Some people identify with the way I talk. I am a person who has a lot of friends. Through my work I've built a legion of friends around the world… ‘He who has friends is never alone’ - with so many friends, I know I will never be alone.
“They follow me, they motivate me, they fight for me. I'm very grateful for having all of these guys with me. And I'm happy when I give them the joy they deserve. When it's fight time, that's my biggest pressure - to please those who like me. I take that responsibility, and every day I win the fight a little bit more.
“I will represent.”