Wanderlei Silva got his wish. Despite Dana White’s insistence that “The Axe Murderer” fight Vitor Belfort next — a fight Wand wanted himself weeks before — Silva will meet Chris Leben over July 4 weekend at UFC 132. The UFC announced the news earlier this evening.
“Two fan favorites will go to war as Chris ‘The Crippler’ Leben has verbally agreed to face Wanderlei ‘The Axe Murderer’ Silva in Las Vegas July 2nd,” said UFC President Dana White.
It’s news that should make Wanderlei’s mentor Rafael Cordeiro happy. He was concerned Wand wasn’t ready for Belfort yet after coming off knee surgery and a lengthy layoff.
“I think Wanderlei is coming off multiple injuries, but, at the same time, he has a desire to make this fight. There is a desire as an athlete and a fighter to make this rematch with Vitor,” said Cordeiro, who runs the Kings MMA camp in Huntington Beach, Calif. “I think, at this point, in my opinion as a friend and coach, he should have a fight with someone else before Vitor. When I say someone, I mean anyone who gets him back to being active.
“This fight with Vitor will become very important in his life, and he really wants it,” he added. “For Wanderlei to be 100 percent for the fight with Vitor, it’s important that he get another fight before it.”
It’s hard to argue with that. Belfort may just got front kicked in the face, but at least he’s been active this year. Wanderlei on the the hand hasn’t fought anyone since he narrowly beat Michael Bisping over a year ago at UFC 110. I definitely wouldn’t say Chris Leben is a “tune-up fight,” but at least his hands aren’t quite as fast as Vitor’s. Leben is tough, but it’s a fight a rusty Silva can win. To beat Belfort though, as Cordeiro said, Wand will need to be on the top of his game.
Image via Dave Mandel for Sherdog