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SWAT team arrests martial arts fighter Silva after threats

Thiago Silva, 31, who was arrested late Thursday night after threatening to shoot a packed South Florida martial arts gym, is shown in this
Thiago Silva, 31, who was arrested late Thursday night after threatening to shoot a packed South Florida martial arts gym, is shown in this

By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Thiago Silva was arrested after barricading himself in his south Florida townhouse following threats to kill his estranged wife and others at a local martial arts gym, police said on Friday.

The Brazilian-born light heavyweight fighter was captured in a SWAT team operation on Thursday, when officers subdued him with a Taser after he refused to comply with their commands, the Broward County Sheriff's Office said.

Silva, 31, was charged with two counts of attempted murder, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and obstruction without violence.

A judge on Friday downgraded the attempted murder charges to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and ordered Silva to be held without bail, deeming him to be a flight risk and a danger to his wife.

Attorney Scott Saul said his client was presumed innocent.

"He is one of the premier professional fighters," Saul said in court. "It is hard for this man to hide."

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the mixed martial arts promotion company that Silva joined in 2007 said on Friday the organization was ending the relationship.

"The Ultimate Fighting Championship has terminated the contract of Thiago Silva, effective immediately," spokesman Dave Sholler said in an email.

Silva's arrest followed run-ins in recent weeks with police over alleged verbal and physical threats to his wife, Thaysa Silva, from whom he has been separated since 2012.

Police said Thiago Silva drove to a ju-jitsu gym in suburban Fort Lauderdale on Thursday and threatened to shoot everyone inside if the owner, who dates Silva's wife, did not come outside.

The gym owner emerged to protect Thaysa Silva, he told police, then quickly ran back inside the building, locked the doors and called 911.

Police caught up with Thiago Silva as he returned home. While attempting to convince him to surrender, Silva "gave them the middle finger ... and went inside the residence," according to the affidavit.

Silva won 16 UFC bouts and lost three. After testing positive for marijuana in 2012, he agreed to a six-month ban from the sport and entered a drug rehab program, according to UFC owner Zuffa LLC.

UFC fighters use an eclectic form of fighting called mixed martial arts. The brutal technique combines boxing, kickboxing, wrestling and karate, often leaving fighters' faces swollen to the point of being unrecognizable after a bout.

Over the past decade, the fights have gone from an underground sport to a full-fledged phenomenon attracting major advertisers and coverage on prominent sports television networks.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins, G Crosse)

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