Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

UFC legend Anderson Silva to face Kelvin Gastelum in headline bout of highly anticipated November Shanghai card

‘The Spider’ is widely regarded as the greatest MMA fighter of all time and will be the main draw in UFC’s mainland debut

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 August, 2017, 11:55am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 August, 2017, 9:39pm

The rumours had been swirling around for the past week and now they are confirmed. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) have called on the services of Anderson “The Spider” Silva, one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time, for the organisation’s first ever event in mainland China, scheduled for November 25.

The Brazilian fighter will carry a 38-4 record into the Octagon when he faces number-eight ranked American middleweight Kelvin Gastelum (14-3) as the headline event on the UFC card, which will be staged at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena.

While the UFC has staged a number of events across Asia, including three in Macau, mainland China has always been seen as the Las Vegas-based promotion’s ultimate goal, given estimations there are around 77 million MMA fans across the nation, and the fact the sport is rapidly extending its reach there.

Finally, after 24 years of action and more than 400 events globally, the big show is coming to town. In Silva the UFC will showcase the talents of one of the best the sport has seen, with the now 42-year-old having held the organisation’s middleweight crown for 2,457 days up until his loss to Chris Weidman on July 6, 2013 – a streak that is still an UFC record and which saw Silva notch up 16 consecutive wins and 10 title defences. UFC supremo Dana White has long labelled the Brazilian the best fighter he has seen.

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Silva was last seen in action at UFC 208 in February, where he picked up a unanimous decision over American Derek Brunson.

It promises to be an explosive match-up in Shanghai, with the 25-year-old Gastelum having built a reputation as a fast-finisher – with five first-round decisions on a record that includes wins over former UFC champions Vitor Belfort and Johny Hendricks.

Tickets for the event went on sale on Thursday and, as is the UFC’s want, and more bouts for the big event will be trickled out of the coming months, with Chinese fans hopeful that the country’s two rising MMA stars – welterweight Li “The Leech” Jingliang (13-4) and featherweight Wang “The Dongbei Tiger” Guan (19-1-1) – will be thrown into the mix.

Earlier this year the UFC’s vice-president in Asia Kevin Chang said staging events on the mainland was a natural progression for the world’s premier MMA organisation.

“Sometimes it takes a bit longer, sometimes it happens very quickly. MMA in China will follow its own course, in a country rich with martial arts history,” he said. “China has produced some of the best athletes in the world and the new generation of talent will take the lessons from Chinese martial arts to give them an advantage.”