Prior to undergoing surgery on his broken left leg early Sunday morning, UFC middleweight Anderson Silva asked doctors, "When can I train?"
Silva, widely regarded as one of the greatest fighters of all time, suffered a severe leg injury during a failed bid to recapture the UFC middleweight title against Chris Weidman on Saturday in Las Vegas.
The Brazilian was rushed to a local hospital with a fractured tibia and fibula in his left leg. Dr. Steven Sanders, the UFC's orthopedic surgeon, operated on Silva for "about an hour," inserting a titanium rod into his broken tibia.
Sanders, who spoke to media members via conference call Monday, gave Silva a recovery timetable of three to six months and said he could resume training as early as six to nine months. He added that Silva's age, 38, should have zero effect on his recovery.
"In the pre-op area, his questions were, 'When can I train?'" Sanders told ESPN.com.
"When the fracture heals, the bone will achieve its original strength. In addition, it will also have a titanium rod that is 11.5 millimeters in diameter shoring up that area. Whether a fighter returns after injury can be multifactorial, but from a bone perspective, when the fracture heals, you can start to test the soft tissue."
Silva remained hospitalized in Las Vegas as of Monday afternoon. Sanders did not have an estimated time for his release.
The titanium rod likely will remain in Silva's leg the rest of his life, although it can be removed. According to Sanders, Silva could begin weight-bearing rehabilitation almost immediately, once pain subsides.
"You don't rehabilitate a broken bone," Sanders said. "It heals on its own, and when it heals, it's ready to go. The rehab is in relationship to the soft tissues.
"The ankle joint can get stiff because of the soft tissue above the joint. His rehabilitation will involve range of motion on his knee and ankle, and based on the pattern of the fracture, he'll be allowed to do partial weight bearing in the near future, as we get through the acute pain phase."
The injury occurred one minute into the second round of the five-round title fight, when Weidman (11-0) checked Silva's kick with the area near his left knee. Silva immediately fell down in pain and eventually left the cage on a stretcher.
Sanders, who has practiced in Las Vegas since 1991 and has been with the UFC since 2001, said the injury could have been much worse.
"As many people have seen, you can see the dramatic way in which there was an abnormal bend in the leg where it's not supposed to bend," Sanders said.
"An injury like that can go to where the skin breaks, and then you have this exposed bone in the environment of the Octagon. His risk for infection goes up meteoric. It could have twisted in such a direction that lacerated an artery to the foot, and he could have needed a vascular reconstruction procedure.
"Injuries like this can, at times, even be limb threatening."
Silva (33-6) holds the UFC record for consecutive wins with 16. He won the UFC middleweight championship in October 2006 and went on to defend it a record 10 consecutive times.
He suffered his first UFC loss to Weidman on July 6 in Las Vegas, via knockout in the second round.