Henrique Silva, who once stopped future UFC star Johnny Walker in just 18 seconds in Brazil, went through a rollercoaster of emotions and opportunities over the last few years before finally deciding to resume his mixed martial arts career.
“Montanha” was just a 4-0 talent when he got an offer to face an unknown Walker at Jungle Fight 88 in 2016, and the finish went viral. In a matter of seconds, Silva knocked Walker down three times before referee Douglas Aires finally put an end to the heavyweight contest.
At that time, Silva told MMA Fighting he wasn’t going to rush his career, but was interested in fighting for the Jungle Fight heavyweight belt and then signing with the UFC. The title shot came, but a sub-one-minute loss to Joao Almeida two months later derailed his plans.
Silva decided to make some changes in his life following the first setback of his MMA career. The father of a little girl, he got engaged and put his career on hold to get a bachelor’s degree in physical education and have an alternative for his post-MMA life. At 33 years of age, a big opportunity would once again knock on his door.
He doesn’t buy that excuse though.
“I asked around and got a bit disappointed with the UFC because I feel that there was no visa issue,” said Silva, who had a tourist visa at the time. “They said it would take a long time for me to get a work visa, but a friend of mine, Bruno Assis, who fought recently at the Contender Series, didn’t even have a tourist visa and got a work visa before the fight. That’s an excuse they gave me and I didn’t like it, but that’s in the past now.”
“Montanha” believes that the decision to remove from the card was a “business” call to make room for someone else to compete in front of Dana White, and that frustration led him to decide to retire from the sport.
“After that whole thing with the Contender I really decided not to fight again because it was too much for me and my family,” Silva said. “I had five sponsors, I had everything, and I decided to stop working as a personal trainer to focus on my MMA career. I was confident that I’d do my best in there and Dana White would call me. It was so frustrating. After that, I decided to stop.”
A year after the Contender Series bout fell through, Silva will finally return to competition Friday night, taking on undefeated Hugo Cunha at the Future MMA 8 card in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Aug. 23. Even though Silva still hopes to become a UFC fighter one day, that’s no longer his ultimate career goal.
“Every athlete dreams of being in the UFC, but that’s no longer my dream,” Silva said. “I have nothing against them, it was a business decision and we have to understand that. I have a career in physical education now and I’m very successful, so I’m fighting to satisfy my ego, to get in there and brawl. That’s my focus now.”
It’s no secret that one of the main reasons why Silva was given a chance to fight at Future MMA is the fact that he holds a win over Walker, who went 3-0 in the UFC with devastating victories over Khalil Rountree, Justin Ledet and Misha Cirkunov after a successful appearance at the Contender Series.
Don’t expect Silva to brag about it.
“Future is a great platform to get fighters [to LFA and UFC], but that doesn’t add any weight over me,” Silva said. “What does add, and I think people should let it go because I don’t talk about it anymore—and you were probably going to ask me about it—is my win over Johnny Walker. Everybody’s waiting to see the guy that knocked out Johnny Walker. That’s annoying. Other than that, it’s all good.
“People don’t stop asking about it, man,” he continued. “I get way too many messages on Instagram asking about it. Everywhere I go in Belo Horizonte people talk about it. It’s on YouTube. ‘Where’s Montanha?’ ‘Is he retired?’ ‘Oh, it’s the guy that beat up Johnny Walker.’ Johnny Walker is such a nice guy and he 100 percent deserves to be where he is now. Sometimes people ask me why he’s there and I’m not, and I’m sure Johnny Walker wanted that more than I did. He embraced the opportunities and got there.”
Silva swears he feels no jealousy towards Walker’s success in the Octagon, but admits he can’t bear to watch the level of heavyweights that have joined the promotion over the last 12 months.
“I feel very happy every time Johnny Walker fights because it’s a spectacle, he’s so fun to watch, he’s so cool,” Silva said. “What messes me up is when I see the heavyweights that are being called to the UFC and the Contender. I look at them and think, ‘f*ck, I’m better than that,’ you know? But I’m a religious man and I believe that everyone has what they deserve.”
Before his win over Walker in 2016, Silva’s grandmother gave him a UFC glove she bought in the United States. At the time, those gloves served as an inspiration for him. He doesn’t mind seeing them these days, but hates looking at a pile of paper at home.
“The only thing that I keep at home as a souvenir but really bothers me is the Contender contract, full of UFC stuff,” Silva said. “That really bothers me. I know that contract, all that paperwork is still here.”