Khabib, BJ Penn, Royce Gracie: Anderson Silva names his 'Mount Rushmore' of UFC

Anderson Silva Khabib Nurmagomedov Royce Gracie BJ Penn Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

Anderson Silva taps his laptop screen in mock frustration. 

"You freeze, man, you freeze," he cries. "You're back again? Oh, you freeze again, bro."

It's getting late as Silva has just wrapped up a hard day of sparring at his Spider Kick gym in Los Angeles. 

Thankfully, though, the former UFC middleweight champion still managed to see the funny side as he sat down for a wide-ranging interview with GIVEMESPORT whilst wrestling with a dodgy Internet connection. 

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Anderson Silva

What is Anderson Silva's full name?

As arguably the greatest fighter of his generation, it would have been foolish not to ask him which fighters he would include on a UFC version of Mount Rushmore, the 'Shrine of Democracy' in South Dakota, featuring former US presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. 

Speaking exclusively to GIVEMESPORT, Silva began his list by naming UFC Hall of Famer B.J. Penn and former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov - but there was no place for former champions Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey.

"Well, there's lots of different fighters I respect, but if we're talking about the best, I would say BJ Penn," he said. "What the guy did, he's amazing, what he did for the sport. 

"Khabib, Khabib is a beast, he's so amazing. He changed, how you say, his wrestling, his pressure, how he fight, he changed the game."   

Anderson Silva

He also went on to say that Royce Gracie deserved a place as one of the most influential figures in the history of mixed martial arts, and also name-dropped Antonio 'Big Nog' Rodrigo Nogueira - his mentor and trusted advisor.

"I would also say Royce Gracie - he started everything," he added. "Without him there would be nothing. None of this, no UFC, nothing.

"My best friend 'Minotauro' as well. He's my master. He gave me my black belt in jiu-jitsu."

Anderson Silva

Silva came through the ranks at the famed Chute Boxing Academy before he burst onto the scene with a highlight-reel knockout of Carlos Newton at Pride 25 in March 2003.

The gym was founded by Rudimar Fedrigo, who brought in fellow Brazilians Rafael Cordeiro, Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua and Wanderlei Silva to form a super-group of elite-level fighters. 

Silva has also revealed how the rise and fall of one of the most influential and dominant schools in mixed martial arts continues to fuel him in his own journey of becoming a coach. 

"You know, it was a good gym for many, many years. We had so many great fighters - Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio Rua, Murilo Rua," the 46-year-old said.  

"But the problem was the leaders, they were not good leaders, always doing something wrong, and we lost the best team in the world. How would you say - too many egos?

"Now, I just try to pass on the knowledge to my students. Respect, loyalty and passion. That's what me and my partners try to pass on to our students. How you can do anything when you believe in yourself."

Anderson Silva punches Julio Cesar Chavez Jr

Silva also broke his silence about his departure from the UFC and his future plans for his fighting career.

Last month, the Brazilian MMA legend pulled off a stunning upset at the Tribute to the Kings in Guadalajara, Mexico, on June 19.

The 46-year-old former Shooto middleweight champion defeated former world champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr of Mexico on a split decision after eight rounds to mark his successful return to active competition. 

Silva's clash against Chavez Jr was his first foray into boxing since 2005.  

"I'm working hard and want to show respect for every single athlete in boxing," he said. "I need to do my best because if I don't do my best I don't respect the sport and I don't respect the people who made this sport huge.

"Finally, I'm doing something for myself, I've been working for many, many years of my life, in sports, combat sports. I think I need to enjoy the moment, you know, because I'm so lucky.

"I'm 46 years old, man, and I'm lucky to continue doing my job and doing something special. Everything's perfect, everything's amazing, you know, I learn a lot."

Read more: Anderson Silva exclusive: Canelo Alvarez is 'the best in the sport right now'

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