Anderson Silva on Jon Jones: 'He is the evolution of this sport'

MMA fans would relish the thought of Anderson Silva fighting against Georges St.-Pierre or Jon Jones, but neither fight has ever happened. And the answer to the question of who would win these intriguing matchups or who remains as the best fighter will always be up for debate.

Ask the fighters involved in the discussion and their answers have always been diplomatic. Until now.

Anderson Silva, who is in Australia preparing for a fight following a nearly two-year absence, didn't follow the script and answered a question from ESPN Brazil on who he considers to be the best MMA fighter.

"Jon Jones," said Silva when asked on who would win a fight between them with both at their peak. "He's an excellent fighter. I consider him like a younger brother and I believe he is the evolution of this sport."

Silva is set to return to the Octagon on Saturday against rising contender Israel Adesanya at UFC 234 in Melbourne, Australia.

Silva doesn't even consider himself to be the greatest Brazilian UFC fighter of all time. Leave that to another close friend: Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira.

"First, because he is a guy who has excelled in this sport and has given a lot to many people, including me, in this sport," Silva said. "So I consider him to be the best Brazilian fighter of all time."

Minotauro is credited for sparking Silva's rise through the ranks of the UFC. He was instrumental in persuading "The Spider" to not give up on his career as a professional mixed martial arts fighter in 2013. They became close friends, and Silva went on to become arguably the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.

Silva was the longtime UFC middleweight champion, having reigned over the division for 2,457 straight days. He had 10 title defenses and 16 consecutive wins.