x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Burger-loving Silva gives UFC team a taste of the big time

Most of the fighters taking part in Saturday's UFC event are keeping fit by eating healthily, but Anderson Silva likes to get stuck in to a couple of Big Macs.

ABU DHABI // While most of the fighters taking part in Saturday's UFC 112: Invincible event are keeping fit by eating healthily, the sport's world champion, Anderson Silva, likes nothing better than to get stuck in to a couple of Big Macs. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight champion, who will try to defend his title for the 11th time against the five-time world jiu-jitsu champion Demian Maia, used to work at McDonald's and has developed a pre-fight craving for burgers.

"Give him a cheeseburger and he will be happy," said Ed Soares, Silva's manager. The 35-year-old Brazilian's needs are simple, as are those of the other fighters appearing on Yas Island. There were no celebrity-style demands for items such as imported candles or bowls of specifically coloured M&Ms. "They just need a room with a mat to train in," Soares said. "They bring focus mitts, maybe some Thai kick-pads, and Anderson likes to bring a rubber racketball. As a matter of fact, we have to go to a sports store to buy one."

Many of the fighters arrived in the capital at least a week ago - the UFC lightweight champion, BJ Penn, showed up more than a fortnight in advance - to ensure they are not jet-lagged and are well acclimatised before they fight. While Maia travels only with his coaches, Penn and Silva both have large entourages all dressed in clothing bearing their fighter's name. Silva has brought 19 people to Abu Dhabi with him, including his Brazilian sparring partners and his father.

"A lot of the time it is not really necessary, but he feels like these guys have put a lot of work in with him and this is kind of the reward," Soares said. "A lot of these guys come from Brazil and are not well off. This is the first time Anderson's father has ever left the country - as it is one of the other guys - so he feels really happy to give these guys their first trip." For Dave Lewis, the UFC's head of operations, it's a challenge finding a hotel that can provide the 160 rooms they need, enough space to create two workout areas for the fighters and a temporary operations office.

"Fighters need the workout rooms, they need a gym within the hotel, a sauna, and they're fairly low maintenance after that," he said. "They come in and they just do what they need to do to make the weight." @Email:loatway@thenational.ae