Alex “Little Rock” Silva (5-1) is well on his way to becoming a breakout star in ONE Championship’s strawweight division.
He is a second-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a Copa Do Mundo BJJ World Champion, a coach at Singapore’s Evolve MMA, and is nearing a title shot at the ONE Strawweight World Championship. But things have not always been so rewarding for Silva.
Raised in Ubatuba, Brazil, as the youngest of four siblings, he had a loving mother and father who kept the family close.
“Growing up as a kid in Brazil, you have to be think quickly on your feet,” the 35-year-old recalls of his childhood. “I have great parents who really looked after me. They owned a little convenience store and worked a lot. I would help them run the shop as a kid.”
Life in his household was calm and cool, but school was very different. While it is normal for kids, and young boys in particular, to roughhouse on the school playground, Silva had to fend for himself on a daily basis. Due to his smaller size, he was frequently tormented by larger schoolmates, but he never backed down from them.
“People always tried to bully me at school, but I always fought back. My parents had to come to school almost every day because I was in fights,” he explains. “That is actually why I started martial arts, to learn to protect myself.”
Silva was first exposed to martial arts through cinema, and tried his hand at an assortment of various disciplines. But after seeing a living legend utilize Brazilian jiu-jitsu to devastating effect against much larger opponents, he decided to focus solely on it.
“I was interested in martial arts since I was a kid. I loved martial arts movies, especially Bruce Lee. I did kung fu and capoeira first, but once I saw Royce Gracie, I wanted to learn BJJ.”
“Little Rock” was a natural grappler. He earned his black belt in 2007, and soon received his second-degree black belt, winning multiple titles such as the Brazilian National Championship and the Copa Do Mundo BJJ World Championship along the way.
For Silva, he has reaped many benefits from “the gentle art,” and sees that in other who start training, too.
“I love BJJ, because it changes people’s lives. It changed my life, and I have seen it change the lives of my students. Some people might think it looks weird at first, but once they try it, they get addicted. It is a lifestyle,” he explains.
“BJJ gave me a lot of good things in life. It gave me confidence, made me healthy, and most of the friends I have are because of BJJ. It is amazing in helping people gain confidence and opening people up.”
In 2011, Silva transitioned from the mats to the cage for a professional career in the cage.
Although the two fields of competition are different, it was not as big of a leap as some people may think. Not only did he grow up learning many different styles during his childhood, but he harks back to those bullying episodes he experienced on the playground.
“I feel like I have been doing martial arts my whole life, having to fight to protect myself in the schoolyard and on the street,” he says. “I have over 250 BJJ matches, so after a while I was looking for the next challenge.”
That challenge has led him to Asia, where he has become one of the most talented strawweights in the world.
Ever since making his professional debut, he has amassed an impressive record of 5-1, with his most recent victory taking place this past February at ONE: THRONE OF TIGERS. At that event, he defeated former world title challenger Roy Doliguez via armbar midway through the third round.
“It went the way I expected,” the Brazilian says. “I knew he was a tough guy, having competed for the belt before. I knew he had heavy hands, and that his grappling was good because he had never been submitted until he met me.”
Silva’s upcoming tilt could be the one to catapult him towards a shot at the ONE Strawweight World Championship.
On Friday, 10 November, riding a four-submission winning streak, he will meet Japan’s Hayato Suzuki at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD, which broadcasts live from the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
Suzuki, a Grachan Flyweight Champion who is undefeated at 17-0-2, is an elite wrestler who defeated former world title challenger Joshua Pacio in his promotional debut this past August. He took the Team Lakay standout down, and submitted him via rear-naked choke in the first round.
Both men are world-class grapplers who want an opportunity to challenge reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito for the belt. The way Silva sees it, however, is that every single bout moving forward is essentially an opportunity to stake his claim.
“For me, every match is important. Every match is a title shot for me. Every time I step into the cage, it is a big deal for me. All my matches are important, and I always give 100 per cent,” the Brazilian explains.
“I know I will be champion eventually, but actually my goal is to be the number one martial artist in my division in the world. That is what I focus on, but obviously, with that comes the belt.”