Wand Silva back in his Vale Tudo days The landscape of MMA is much different today than it was 15 years ago. The sport now is about game planning, protecting your brand, and fighters feuding via Twitter. In the past, guys competed solely for the love of fighting or to possibly score some free Tapout shirts. Fighters from the Vale Tudo era are almost all but extinct now. This is why you hear some people voicing their displeasure with the regulated fight game that we see today. Older organizations like IVC or WVC were fantastic platforms for people who simply loved to just enjoy watching fights. The rules were No Hold Barred (NHB) so no one could lay on you or just keep passing guard and continually doing no damage. You didn’t do NHB if you were scared of getting punched in the face or losing your precious Jack in the Box sponsorship. Guys like Wanderlei Silva came from these organizations, molding him into what kind of fighter he is today. His career has been nothing short of violently beautiful and this is why he is still one of the most popular fighters today. If you put 1998 Wanderlei Silva and 2013 Wanderlei Silva in the ring it may have looked something like this… 1998 Wanderlei impatiently paces back and forth, while waiting for 2013 to come to the ring. 1998 is a little on edge because they are fighting in a living room sized ballroom with a ceiling that is too low and he is bothered by the loud techno music ‘Sandstorm’ that 2013 is walking out to. 1998 stares across the cage at 2013 ready to kill him, but can’t help but be perplexed at why 2013’s shorts look like a NASCAR race car. 2013 stares back at him just as confused, because he is about to fight a guy with no gloves on his hands and Speedos on his waist. The fight starts and 1998 throws wild punches from everywhere. The 22 year old Brazilian street brawler fights like he has nothing to lose, while 2013 swings back hoping for the ko and entertaining the fans. They clinch up on the ropes. 2013 thinks he is safe, when suddenly he is hit with 3 headbutts and a knee to the groin by 1998. 2013 can’t call a timeout (or the Jamie Varner Exception) because this is NHB and almost anything goes. 2013 pulls guard to try and recover but immediately feels 1998’s chin digging into his eye socket. 1998 Wanderlei gets up and proceeds to curb stomp his downed opponent to his head. 2013 is used to this though because he has had Dan Miragliotta ref his fights and he lets people come as close to death as humanly possible. Then laughs about it. The point is, Wanderlei Silva has done it all and is one of the last savages left in MMA. Most of the fighters from the NHB era are either out of the fight game or eating their veggies through a straw somewhere. The guys who used to compete before regulated MMA had a, ‘I just want to fight’ attitude that fans genuinely respected and admired. His attitude has never changed since his Vale Tudo days. He wants to fight and entertain people who pay hard earned money to watch him. You can’t say that about too many other fighters today. The rules and regulations today are put in place for the safety of the combatants, which is a very good thing. Many guys who get into the sport now have some sort of background in wrestling or BJJ as a base discipline. We are seeing more people who are natural competitors who learn to fight, as opposed to fighters who learn to compete. The raw aggressive fighters are far and few between today. Chuck Liddell, Fedor, Pele, Wanderlei; All guys who would fight their mother for a free toaster oven. These are guys who fight to kill their opponents and would die to entertain the fans. I am not saying the fighters of today don’t have that killer instinct. Far from it. I am simply saying that our beloved warriors from the Vale Tudo era are almost gone and we should embrace them while we can. Wanderlei is one of the last savages still actively fighting and fans should enjoy his final run in the sport. One day he will be gone from MMA and the NHB mentality (bare-knuckle / fight to live / anything goes) will leave with him. I am dreading that day.