Wand enjoys a homecoming in Japan

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Saturday night’s UFC on FUEL 8 from Japan features fighters from across the planet. Only two Americans appear on the main card.

Dong Hyun Kim from Korea fights Siyar Bahadurzada from Afghanistan by way of The Netherlands. Mizuto Hirota from Japan fights Rani Ahmad Yahya from Brazil. Takanori Gomi from Japan faces Diego Sanchez from the USA. Yushin Okami from Japan fights Hector Lombard from Cuba by way of Australia. Stefan Struve from The Netherlands fights Mark Hunt from Australia by way of New Zealand.

And in the main event, Brian Stann from the USA fights Wanderlei Silva, who lives and works in Las Vegas, and was born and raised in Brazil, but who says that returning to Japan feels like a homecoming.

Dave Deibert has the story.

Professionally, at least, the Land of the Rising Sun was the birthplace of Silva the superstar.

Now one of the most popular and revered athletes in UFC, Silva first made his reputation within the sport while competing in Japan for PRIDE FC. Famously dubbed ‘The Axe Murderer’, Silva was at the top of the game for years, decimating opponents and thrilling crowds that routinely topped 40,000 and at times hit as many as 70,000 and even 90,000.

Silva won the PRIDE middleweight title, the 2003 Grand Prix tournament, and at one point was undefeated in 20 consecutive PRIDE matches, beating the likes of Rampage Jackson, Dan Henderson and, most famously, Japanese icon and fighting legend Kazushi Sakuraba.

Silva, now 36 and nearly 14 years removed from his PRIDE debut, could barely be more excited to be back competing in Japan for the first time since 2006.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Silva. “I really wanted to come back and fight over here.”

“It feels like my home country. They adopted me over here … Japanese fans were great for me.”

“My fans push me a lot, motivate me a lot, give me energy to train, to fight. I’m so happy to have all the people support me around the world.”

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