At the start of 2009 Thiago Silva really looked like he could be a future UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. He was an aggressive fighter with powerful muay thai, very good jiu jitsu and training at American Top Team, one of the best camps in the sport. Even when he lost to Lyoto Machida in January of that year, it seemed to be only a minor set back as he easily beat gatekeeper Keith Jardine.
That is where the wheels came off, as Silva took his next fight against former Champion Rashad Evans while suffering from sever back problems. Then when Silva bounced back with a resounding win over Brandon Vera, it was overturned when Silva failed the NSAC required drug test. After a year long suspension Silva returned to action and left American Top Team to begin training at a different Florida based camp in the Blackzilians.
When talking to MMA Junkie yesterday Silva had this to say about American Top Team:
"Once I moved to American Top Team, my life started going the wrong way. It wasn't a good team. I think I lost three years of my life training the wrong way. Their coaches didn't have much to teach the athletes. I'm glad I found a real team now and I now have the ability to get back on track. We have a very strong and very complete team. We have wrestlers, strikers, jiu-jitsu. We have everything. I wasted three years of my life [at ATT]. But ultimately it was my choice, my decision. I paid the price. Now I have to get back in the race. All I have to do is get back to my old habits of working hard in the gym. We didn't train hard at ATT. I only noticed that after I left them."
These are some harsh words for one of the sport's most respected camps, and clearly there is some frustration on Silva's part on his recent run in the UFC. Even since moving to the Blackzilians Silva's fortunes have not improved as he was easily defeated by Alexander Gustafsson, but it had been well over a year since Silva's last fight and Gustafsson is a truly elite prospect, so there are factors other than camp at play there.
With this current match with Stanislav Nedkov, Silva is being handed the perfect match to his career back on track. Nedkov is a powerful striker, but his primarily boxing style plays right into Silva's hands. A muay thai kickboxer, Silva likes to use powerful kicks to hack away at the legs of his opponents and slow them down before letting his hands go to work. If Silva looks impressive he could be back on track to getting his name into the title picture but if he losses there is clearly a lot more wrong here than just his training camp.