Watch the old videos where he walked out to "Sandstorm" and rolling his wrists and caved in skulls all you want, but unless you saw Wanderlei Silva fight during his Pride heyday, it's hard to appreciate how terrifying the Chute Boxe brawler was a decade ago. The Brazilian middleweight champion—light heavyweight, if we're talking stateside weight classes—always looked like he was fighting for a meal to drag back to his cave, and his stomps-and-hooks-heavy style brought Kazushi Sakuraba, Quinton Jackson, and countless Japanese patsies to violent ends during an 18-fight unbeaten streak that lasted from 2000 until New Year's Eve 2004 (when an oversized, atomic-butt-dropping Mark Hunt broke it). Silva could be memed, but he couldn't be destroyed.
Further north of the equator, Charles Bennett, who now fights under the nom de guerre "Felony" but will be forever infamous as "Krazy Horse," was MMA's disreputable little secret. A Florida-based lightweight-ish fighter with braids and a grill, Bennett was a natural athlete who fought and back-flipped his way to Pride and Elite XC—including a knockout over former pro boxer and Elite XC champ KJ Noons—despite boasting that he spent almost no time in the gym before he stepped in the ring. Considering his journeyman record, those boasts were believable. "When I got 22 losses, I realized that I needed to train," the 61-fight veteran once said.
Maybe he simply couldn't train because of a legal history that reads like lyrics Mobb Deep wrote for Murda Muzik: Bennett was arrested 14 times between 1999 and 2009, catching charges for drug possession and distribution, kidnapping, and aggravated battery upon a pregnant female. In early 2010, Sherdog reported that after a heated sparring session at his gym, Bennett briefly left and came back wielding "a heavy piece of steel he must have found in the parking lot and began attacking the other fighter (from behind) with intent to do serious damage. He was tackled by two other fighters and disarmed." Here's a video montage of his mug shots.
Bennett's and Silva's paths converged on the evening of December 31, 2005, at Pride FC Shockwave 2005, the promotion's New Year's Eve blowout at Saitama Super Arena. Both Silva and Bennett both fought and won in the ring that night—Silva by split-decision in a rematch over Brazilian Top Team behemoth Ricardo Arona, Bennett by armbar over Japanese actor and 0-0 fighter Ken Kaneko. Backstage, Bennett and one of Silva's Chute Boxe teammates got into an extracurricular fight for murky reasons: Bennett said Chute Boxe fighters jumped him because he made Keneko "look like shit when I beat him up. He tried some of that Chute Boxe shit, but it's bullshit. All that shit is bullshit." At any rate, someone was holding a video camera when Bennett tackled Cristiano Marcello, Chute Boxe's resident jiu-jitsu expert (who later fought in the UFC). After tussling briefly—and, notably, without anyone attempting to break it up—Marcello put Bennett to sleep with a triangle choke.
But to hear Bennett tell it, the video that came out afterward missed the most important part: he regained consciousness as Silva kicked his feet, told The Axe Murderer "Nigga I ain't scared of you," knocked Silva out with a punch, then ran out of the room.
As with Suge Knight possibly dangling Vanilla Ice off a balcony like a pompadoured fishhook, the only people who really know what happened after the video ended were there when it happened. Chances are there weren't any impartial observers or a second camera rolling, and the vacancy of absolute truth is like oxygen for alpha male folklore.
Now, as Rizin Fighting Federation digs up more sarcophaguses of mid-2000s Japanese MMA, it's accidentally resurrecting a long-dormant backstage beef from the era. Yesterday, MMA Mania posted video of Silva confronting Bennett near the elevators of the Hotel Springs Makuhari in Japan while both fighters were in town for this weekend's Rizin event. Presumably out of frustration from more than a decade of shit talking (or maybe truth-telling) from Bennett, Silva says "let's do it," and Bennett calls him a "fucking [other f-word]."
Not sure if it's admirable or sad to hold a grudge over something that happened more than a decade ago, but whatever. After long layoffs, Silva and Bennett are both fighting again for better or worse: Silva was recently released from his UFC contract to break faces elsewhere, while Bennett has gone 2-2 so far this year (with both wins by heel hook, of all things) and fights kickboxer and 0-0 MMA fighter Minoru Kimura for Rizin on September 25. The biggest obstacle to finding a conclusion to Bennett's and Silva's unfinished business where everyone can see it is the fact that the fighters are likely at least two weight classes apart. Of course, that means nothing in Rizin's alternate universe: this weekend marks the start of Rizin's open weight grand prix. Wanderlei Silva makes his entrance in the second round.