Alex Silva On Beating Naito, The Strawweight Division, And More

On Saturday, 12 May, Brazil’s Alex “Little Rock” Silva (7-1) will return to action as he puts his newly-captured ONE Strawweight World Championship on the line.

In his first title defense, he will go up against the man he took the belt from, former titleholder Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito (12-1), at ONE: GRIT & GLORY in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The 35-year-old defeated the Japanese athlete for the gold last December in a compelling five-round affair, but this time, he is looking for the finish. He wants to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind about who the best strawweight on the planet truly is.

Ahead of his return to the cage, we sat down with Silva to learn a little more about what makes him tick as he prepares to leave a lasting legacy.

ONE Championship: The strawweight division is incredibly stacked, with the likes of Stefer Rahardian and Joshua Pacio looking to challenge you for the title. What are your thoughts about the division, and those martial artists?

Alex Silva: There are a lot of tough guys at strawweight, but I do not like to talk about individual athletes. This is a really strong, competitive division in ONE Championship. 

I always watch the bouts that are in my division, but I believe I have to focus on how I can make myself better, rather than focusing on other athletes. So I focus on how I can train better, compete better, and improve as a martial artist.

I am very confident in myself and believe in my skills. I believe I am the best in this division. I have all the skills – I can compete standing, or on the ground. 

I know those guys are all working hard to challenge for my title. I was a contender before, too, so I know how these guys are feeling right now. I know they are going to work hard to take what I have, but I know 100 percent it is my time now. I respect all of the contenders, but this is my time.

ONE: You train at Evolve MMA, which has produced so many world-class athletes and ONE heroes. What is the secret to Evolve’s success?

AS: For me, it comes down to the management, and everybody who works and trains at Evolve. Everybody works hard together to achieve the same goal. 

We have world champions who are amazing at what they do — in BJJ, in Muay Thai, in mixed martial arts — and having so many people like that in the gym helps to raise everybody’s level.

Besides this, we have world-class managers who make sure our gym is a great environment for everybody. To have the success [we have] at Evolve is because of the teamwork between everybody at the gym.

ONE: There are so many world-class athletes at Evolve MMA. Who do you enjoy working with the most?

AS: Everybody! That is why I am here every day! 

I love training with the guys here. There are legends here, and I am lucky to be able to call them my friends. I work a lot with Kru Yod (Yodkunsup Por Pongsawang), who has been helping me a lot with my striking, but everybody here is great. All my teammates and training partners are great to work with.

ONE: As a fellow grappler, have you spent much time with Shinya Aoki?

AS: He has been my idol in this sport for a long time, before I even started martial arts. He has the best BJJ in mixed martial arts, so it is a dream come true for me to train with someone like him. 

Back home in Brazil, when I was training and competing in BJJ, I would sit in front of the computer and watch his mixed martial arts bouts. Now, to be able to hang out with him and train with him is unbelievable. It is amazing.

ONE: Tell us about the emotions and thoughts that go through your mind as you make your way from the dressing room to the cage? Do you get nervous at all?

AS: We train hard for two to three months before the bout, so every time I walk to the cage, I know I am ready. I think like I am a kid who is on his way to Disneyland. I am very excited and very happy to be in that place. 

I do not get nervous. Instead, I get excited. I try to enjoy every single minute and every single moment. I try not to put pressure on myself, and just go in there and have fun. That is the one thing I like to do – get in the cage and compete. I try to soak it all in and enjoy every moment.

ONE: You return to the cage this Saturday, and will defend your belt against former champ Yoshitaka Naito. How do you anticipate this bout ending?

AS: I always try to finish the bout. I always try to submit you or knock you out.

I believe I can beat him again. I am looking for the finish, but even if the finish does not come, I feel I can beat him over five rounds again. I do not feel I have to prove anything to anybody in this rematch. I am just looking to improve on my performance from the first bout. That is my goal now.

I am training hard, I am pushing hard, and I will be prepared for everything. I will be ready to go all five rounds again if I need to, but I will be looking to finish him before the fifth round this time.

ONE: How important is your faith to you as a martial artist? How has your faith helped you during your career?

AS: It is the most important thing. I believe everything you have in life comes by the grace of God. I believe my skills, my heart, my dreams, my everything, comes from God. 

But you got to work hard, be a good person, and set a good example for others. That is what I try to do in my life, in my job, everything. It is the most important thing in my life.

ONE: Finally, tell us three quick-fire facts most people might not know about you.

AS: Firstly, I am very shy. I do not like to talk too much sometimes because I am so shy. Secondly, I am a Christian, and I am now lucky because I have the opportunity to tell people about my faith and my beliefs, and that is a real blessing to me. And thirdly, I am also a good friend. I am the best friend you can have.