Strikeforce heavyweight Antonio Silva using Fedor fight Saturday to help mudslide victims
Antonio Silva (15-2) will use the biggest fight of his career to bring attention to the victims of a series of floods and mudslides that wiped out the town of Nova Friburgo and killed hundreds last month in Brazil.
The 31-year-old Brasilia native has set aside a spot for the “Combat Athletes for Nova Friburgo” Web site (www.combatathletecharities.org) on the sponsorship banner that will hang behind him just before he locks horns with Russian legend Fedor Emelianenko (32-2, 1 NC) Saturday for Strikeforce at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.
Silva, whose manager Alex Davis hails from the small, mostly impoverished town, said it’s the least he can do to bring to light the relief efforts that are continuing to try and bring the hillside community back from catastrophe.
“I don’t want for my family what has happened here,” Silva said. “A lot of them are suffering.”
Davis, still shaken by what he's seen over the last month, said he was one of the first on the scene as a torrential rain brought on a series of mudslides – some two miles long – over a six-hour period in mid January. Davis said houses, businesses and cars were washed away in minutes, while villagers were buried alive as they tried to flee or dig out their family and friends from the earth.
“It was the biggest calamity in Brazilian history,” said Davis, who dove into rescue efforts alongside his 17-year-old son by pulling survivors from the mud, delivering clean water by motorcycle up and down the mountain and donating blood.
Davis, who’s managed Silva for the last five years, lost communication with his fighter - then training at the Imperial Athletics gym in Boca Raton, Fla. - for two days in the aftermath. When he reached Silva again by phone, Davis said he tried not to upset him with the news.
“I promised him we’d make this camp as stress-free as possible,” said Davis, “but he was starting to see it on TV, so I had to tell him.”
Flooding and landslides also hit neighboring towns like Teresopolis and Petropolis. Brazilian news services have reported over 800 fatalities so far, with 20,000 or more people evacuated from their homes. Hundreds more are still missing; Davis believes many will never be found.
After nearly a month of volunteer work, Davis joined Silva this week in New York for the pre-fight rituals leading up to Saturday’s fight. Davis said Silva was saddened by the loss his country has felt, but focused and determined to face the former No. 1 world-ranked heavyweight.
Should Silva top Emelianenko, he’ll advance to the semifinal round of Strikeforce’s World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament this summer and meet champion Alistair Overeem or Fabricio Werdum.
“I’ve wanted this fight since my last 10 fights,” said Silva. “It’s my time.”
-- Loretta Hunt, reporting from New Jersey