Wanderlei Silva was called “The Axe Murderer” for good reason ... just ask Tito Ortiz, Rich Franklin and Chris Leben.
Ortiz and Franklin, former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champions, and Leben — a former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion — all shared the cage with Silva. In fact, all three of them beat Silva. However, their successes did not do much to shed Silva’s terrifying aura. Indeed, all three legends spoke highly of “The Axe Murderer” in an episode of the MMA TRUFAN podcast series.
“I swear he hit me so hard it felt like the world went upside-down,” Ortiz expressed. “He was one of the hardest hitting guys I’ve ever been hit by. What I felt scared me. That was the first time I’ve ever really been hit. Where it hit me, it scared me.... That was one punch that I felt when it hit me, it scared the s—t out of me. I went into recovery mode — do-or-die mode. To run away was my first instinct. If you watched that fight, I ran away to the opposite side of the Octagon. He came chasing after me.”
Franklin spent years imagining how frightening it would be to stand across from Silva. The reality was as nightmarish as expected.
“Once you get onto the inside, it’s like you stepped into a blender in the kitchen and the blender just turned on,” Franklin recalled. “When we did our staredowns for the press conferences, for the weigh-ins, the first-time we ever did a staredown I remember thinking to myself, ‘he didn’t disappoint. It’s still intimidating.’”
Leben had arguably the most stunning victory of the three. He stepped into the devil’s playground and scorched Silva in 27-seconds.
“Wanderlei was a hero of mine,” Leben said. “I idolized the way he fought. He was so aggressive, so savage, so overwhelming. Vicious, vicious, especially in those Pride years. Standing in that ring when all the lights go out and Zombie Nation comes on. I look over and he’s doing his f—king wrist thing. I’m like, ‘what the f—k was I thinking? I asked for this s—t?’ You know?
“Unreal... That was one of those fights where I really got lucky,” he continued. “I was scared to death. I didn’t think I was going to win. I really just wanted to fight Wanderlei because he was a hero of mine.”
Silva will go down as one of Pride FC’s greatest fighters ever. “The Axe Murderer” created a fiendish aura with an 18-fight undefeated streak, as well as a Pride FC Middleweight title and Grand Prix victory.