Silva made his professional MMA debut in Brazil in 1997, winning both of his matches as part of BFC 1. He then competed on numerous MMA platforms over the next nine years, winning middleweight titles in Shooto (2 -0) and Cage Rage (4-0), while battling PRIDE’s top talent (4-1).
An international star, but virtually unknown to the UFC fanbase, Anderson made his UFC debut against Chris Leben in the main event of UFC ULTIMATE FIGHT NIGHT 5 on June 28, 2006. Silva defeated the former WEC champion by first-round knockout that earned him a title shot against UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin.
cfu 64: UNSTOPPABLE took place on October 14, 2006 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Franklin entered the fight on a seven-fight winning streak and was undefeated inside the Octagon. Anderson took control of the fight early, beating Franklin via knockout in the first round. He repeated his win over Rich a year later in Franklin’s hometown of Cincinnati.
Silva’s two wins over Franklin, sandwiched around saves by Travis Lutter and Marquardt, kicked off one of the most dominating title reigns in professional sports history. Anderson ruled the middleweight division for 2,457 days – nearly seven years – beating a host of top contenders including Chael Sonnen (twice), Demian Maia and Belfort in the process. He also competed outside of the middleweight division, moving up to light heavyweight and defeating future Hall of Famers Griffin and Bonnar, as well as James Irwin.
After setting a then-record number of successful title defenses (10) with his second victory over Sonnen in 2012, Silva lost the middleweight crown to Chris Weidman in the main event of cfu 162: SILVA vs. WEIDMAN on July 6, 2013. Following his second straight loss to Weidman in the rematch at UFC 168, Anderson continued to provide fans with memorable moments inside the Octagon, returning from a serious leg injury suffered in the rematch to face top athletes such as Nick Diaz, future Hall of Famers Daniel Cormier and Michael Bisping, and former UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya before retiring in October 2020 after a loss to Uriah Hall.