‘I Use Everything I Went Through As Motivation’ – Valmir Da Silva’s Roller-Coaster Journey To MMA Success

Valmir Da Silva is declared winner by submission finish at ONE 159

Valmir “Junior” Da Silva has used every setback in his life as inspiration to achieve his dreams. 

On April 5, the Brazilian will return to welterweight MMA action against Hiroyuki “Japanese Beast” Tetsuka at ONE Fight Night 21: Eersel vs. Nicolas on Prime Video, and given the adversity he’s already had to overcome, he feels ready for anything inside the ring.

Ahead of his important assignment at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand, find out how Da Silva has navigated a turbulent journey to find his home in the world’s largest martial arts organization.  

‘Brought Up On Love’

Da Silva was born and raised as the middle child of three brothers in Manaus, Brazil, with his mother and grandmother taking the lead roles in his upbringing. 

His mother worked all hours to make ends meet as a single parent, and “Junior” knows that’s why he never went without. 

He told onefc.com

“We grew up well. Our mother never let us lack anything.  

“My mother is a superhero. When I’m going through some difficulty, I think it’s nothing compared to what my mother went through to raise me and my brothers. She is the source of all my determination, motivation, and discipline. 

“She gave all her blood and sweat for us. Today, I just want to give back in the best way possible.” 

Da Silva’s father left the family when he was young, and although the welterweight contender can’t understand that decision, he never had to feel the loss.  

In fact, the young “Junior” always felt supported and looked after, particularly with his older sibling and grandmother by his side:

“I grew up surrounded by love. I grew up with my grandmother, who has now unfortunately left us, and almost every day, my brother was with me. He always gave me the love I needed. He was always the fatherly presence. I am very grateful to them. 

“As for my biological father, at some point, he will know who I am. I will always wish him all the best, but today, I’m a father, and I can’t understand how he was able to abandon us because I can’t live a second away from my daughter.” 

A Better Lifestyle Through BJJ

Given that Da Silva is now an elite professional athlete, it’s hard to picture him as an unfit kid, but he admits to rarely leaving the house as a youngster. 

That led to extreme weight gain as an early teen – until he learned about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:

“When I was 14 years old, I got to know jiu-jitsu. I didn’t really like to leave the house. I stayed quiet in my corner. So I just got fat. I weighed 230 pounds and was 5-foot-1. 

“But I wanted to know new things, and I always enjoyed watching fights. I asked my brother for advice. He asked me if jiu-jitsu was what I wanted to do, and I said yes, but I needed a gi.” 

Eager to help his younger brother become healthier and more confident, the elder sibling did everything in his power to make sure “Junior” had what he needed to start training. 

Remembering this selflessness, Da Silva said: 

“My brother was the one who gave me my first gi. It was very difficult at the time because we didn’t have the financial means, but he did everything – possible and impossible – to get it. 

“As soon as my brother gave me the gi and I started in jiu-jitsu, I quickly stood out. Over time I was losing weight drastically and gaining strength.” 

Inspired To Diversify His Game

Da Silva was already a big mixed martial arts fan when he got into BJJ, but then the legendary Jose Aldo burst onto the professional scene and motivated him to take a new path. 

The iconic MMA World Champion earned his reputation as a fearsome striker, and this struck a chord with “Junior,” who began adding Muay Thai into his arsenal. 

The 28-year-old recalled: 

“I saw Jose Aldo fighting for the first time. It was his fight against Urijah Faber, and I saw him destroying Faber’s leg. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  

“I got it into my head that I had the ability to learn to do that. That’s when I abandoned jiu-jitsu for a while. I started in Muay Thai and it grew. I just focused on being like Aldo.” 

The Manaus native had a clear aptitude for the striking art, winning his first two fights by knockout in a tournament he entered after just three months of training.  

He continued to compete successfully, and now with a dangerous skill set both standing and on the ground, he ventured into the all-encompassing world of MMA.:

“After some jiu-jitsu competitions and 11 Muay Thai fights where I turned professional, I decided to switch to MMA. I thought, ‘I’m good on the ground, I’m good at striking, so why not test myself in MMA?’” 

‘I Almost Gave Up On Everything’

Da Silva raced to an impressive 7-1 MMA slate in his homeland, although the COVID-19 pandemic almost derailed him completely.  

Following the death of his grandmother, “Junior” had moved to live with his godfather. They were extremely close, and he juggled long working hours in a restaurant with his training schedule, studies, and housework.  

But when the pandemic hit, all of that came to a grinding halt. And when his godfather died, it was too much to bear. 

Da Silva explained:

“In the middle of the pandemic, my godfather ended up getting COVID and had serious complications. He fought bravely for a long time, but at the end of the treatment, he didn’t respond so well and ended up dying.  

“After that, I was lost. I got anxious and depressed. I almost gave up on everything. The second wave of COVID came. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have a fight because the MMA events weren’t happening, and the gym was closed.” 

“Junior” had all but checked himself out and felt like he was drowning. But that’s when another important person entered his life and dragged him back to the surface. 

Da Silva opened up about the critical turning point in his life: 

“I didn’t eat properly anymore. I didn’t think about fighting anymore. I didn’t think about anything else. That’s when I met my daughter’s mother. And thanks to her, with a lot of talking, she managed to pull me out of the deep end. 

“She prepared my diet, motivated me to go training, and because of her encouragement, I ended up fighting again. 

“Today, we are reaping the rewards of her support. She didn’t let me give up.” 

Making It To The Global Stage 

Da Silva is now competing in the world’s largest martial arts organization with his fights being broadcast to millions across the globe, and it’s all thanks to the people who supported him when he needed it the most.  

He can look back on those times knowing that he pulled through again and again – and now, it’s his time to shine.  

The Brazilian added: 

“Today I use everything I went through as motivation. Whenever I think something is bad, I remember those times. 

“Thank God I managed to get where I wanted to, in a big international event, and I’m going to do my best to stand out and make all my sacrifice worth it.” 

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