Five Years of Dominance Part 2: How Ryo Chonan & the Nogueiras Remade Anderson Silva

While Anderson Silva has won every fight inside the Octagon his performances in Pride were far more erratic, with the almost pure Muay Thai specialist thrice falling victim to submissions against lesser opponents. The most infamous successful opponent was Ryo Chonan. Chonan pulled off a flying scissor heel hook that immortalized him in YouTube highlight videos, has to be important when you do a retrospective of Silva’s career despite not being a particularly relevant fighter for the majority a fairly lengthy and high profile career.  Chonan has been a staple in Japan since the Pride days and it’s his victory over Silva that altered his career for the good.

That heel hook, a Hail Mary move pulled off in a fight Silva was dominating with his striking, convinced “The Spider” that his spectacular striking game needed a complimentary ground game to take him to the next level. Chonan will most likely be forgotten by history outside of that once in a lifetime submission but his place in the career of Anderson Silva has to be unique and qualified.  Without him Silva never becomes anything more than a guy who won a lot of fights on his home continent but couldn’t take that next step up in competition; most likely he’d be running the car wash he once speculated he’d be doing without MMA, occupying a unique position as perhaps the toughest small business owner in Rio without a dojo.

After the Chonan fight he would train under the Nogueira brothers in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and become the more complete fighter we see today instead of the Muay Thai wrecking machine who could be neutralized on the ground. The Nogueira Brothers had along with the likes of Wanderlei Silva and Shogun Rua dominated Pride Fight Championships and the Brazilian superstars would contest famous battles in Japanese rings. Interestingly, as described to us by Ed Soares an old fault line between grapplers and strikers re-emerged in the rivalry between Brazilian Top Team led by Nogueira and Chute Box featuring Silva and Rua.   “The rivalry was about the two best teams in Brazil fighting to be the best team. Brazilian Top Team was known for their ground fighting and Chute Box was more standing. It was old-style MMA clash of styles with two teams fighting to receive that recognition”

Anderson Silva had been a member of the Chute Box camp but after a bitter falling out he was left in the wilderness. It would be the Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira that would reach out to Silva and rescue his career. Training together, Silva not only rebuilt his confidence but developed the grappling game that he had lacked in Pride.

Neither Black House or Chute Box would thrive in the post-Pride era. In their place Silva and Nogueira’s manager Ed Soares founded the Black House stable that has come to dominate the MMA landscape in Brazil, with a roster of fighters that include Anderson Silva, Jose Aldo, Lyoto Machida and the Nogueira Brothers. Soares explained the philosophy behind Black House and how it differs from other camps. “Black house is not necessarily a team as many different teams make up black house. It started off with the guys we represent coming together and forming a union. It’s more a family than a team.”

The bond between the fighters was shown at UFC Rio where in emotional scenes Anderson Silva and his training partners where filmed erupting in joy at the sight of Nogueira shocking the world by defeating Brendan Schaub. “It was incredible” says Soares. “Nogeuira is a legend in the sport, time and time again he’s overcome adversity. When people think he’s done he’s proved them wrong”.  But Soares argues that more than his achievements in the ring, it’s what Nogueira’s like every day that made the moment so magical. “Outside the Octagon he’s one of the nicest people you’ll meet with the kindest heart. Not only is he a great fighter but he’s an extraordinary person”.

Anderson Silva’s joy at his trainer and friend’s victory showed the extent to which more than most, Anderson Silva has reason to thank Nogueira. The partnership they forged has taken the MMA world by storm, erradicating the weakness in Silva’s game that left him vulnerable to that heel hook from Ryo Chonan all those years ago.

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