Anderson Silva: Title shot promised with win over Israel Adesanya

Former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva faces a tough test against rising star Israel Adesanya at UFC 234. Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

Former UFC champion Anderson Silva accepted a monster challenge this week when he agreed to meet undefeated middleweight contender Israel Adesanya at UFC 234 on Feb. 9.

Silva is 43 and coming off a two-year layoff. It will be a lot to overcome -- and for Silva, that's the point.

"This is a great challenge for me," Silva told ESPN. "My entire life, since I started martial arts, I have taken the best challenge. Israel is a young guy and the future of the sport. Everybody is talking about Israel. I think this is the best fight in the sport."

All that said, Silva's desire to challenge himself isn't the only reason he accepted the fight.

According to Silva, UFC president Dana White told him the winner of this matchup will be next in line to challenge for the 185-pound title. Current champion Robert Whittaker will defend the title against Kelvin Gastelum on the same night. Both fights will take place in Melbourne, Australia.

"Dana came to Los Angeles to talk to me," Silva said. "I said to him, 'Why am I going to take this fight?' And Dana said, 'You know, you win this fight, you go to the title belt.' I said, 'OK, now you are talking good business for me.'"

During that meeting, Silva said, he also broached the topic of fighting former featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor. McGregor told ESPN in October that he'd be interested in facing Silva, even though there is a significant size difference between them.

"At first, I talked to Dana about a fight with McGregor, because McGregor challenged me," Silva said. "Maybe that will be my second fight after this layoff. We'll see."

One potential Silva opponent that does seem out of the question is former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.

The idea of Silva vs. St-Pierre has teased fans for years, and Silva has expressed a desire to make it happen. Earlier this year, however, St-Pierre, who hasn't fought since defeating Michael Bisping for the middleweight title in November 2017, said he's not interested in the fight.

"That's an interesting fight, but Georges has never come to accept the challenge," Silva said. "Georges just runs, runs, runs, It's crazy. I do not think Georges wants the fight -- but that's OK. I respect Georges. He is a great fighter. Maybe he just has a different view -- to take easy fights. That's not me. I like to take the big challenges in my life.

"Georges is very lucky and very smart. He never goes to take a fight if it's not easy. That's the point. Georges, for me, is a great fighter, but he never takes the real challenges in life. That's my opinion. I respect him, but that's my opinion."

Silva (34-8) hasn't fought since a decision win against Derek Brunson at UFC 208 in February 2017. He failed an out-of-competition drug test in October 2017, however the United States Anti-Doping Agency ruled it was caused by a contaminated supplement.

Adesanya (15-0) is coming off a four-win campaign in 2018. He scored a first-round knockout over Brunson at UFC 230 earlier this month.

"I knew when I saw Israel, wow, this boy is amazing and will have a good career in this sport," Silva said. "This is an amazing challenge."