They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and while I would argue that it depends on the words, I will freely admit that when it comes to Wanderlei Silva, I couldn’t agree more.
I'll agree as long as the picture is of the man himself in his natural habitat; in the ring or cage, swinging the “axe” for which he is famous.
The pictures of course are well known, because there are so many of them: Wanderlei running rampant over a bloodied Kazushi Sakuraba in their first meeting at Pride 13.
Then, we recall the photos of Silva driving one of about a million unanswered knees to the head of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in their first fight.
Or the sight of Rampage hanging through the ropes after being violently KO’d during their rematch, blood pouring out of his face.
It seems shocking that a man so violent, conventionally unattractive and foreign to American audiences could have amassed a shockingly high number of fans who are loyal beyond the fickle norm.
So why are they so devoted to this man who has crushed so many of the sport’s heroes?
That’s simple really: when he walks into a fight, he’s either going to kick ass or get his ass kicked.
It’s as sure as the sun rising and setting; if you fight Wanderlei Silva, no matter how great you are, you better be ready to take a tour of the butcher shop, because that’s where it’s going to end one way or another.
And we love that.
Even on the home stretch of a great career, he’s still dangerous. Cung Le was supposed to walk all over Silva, only to end up with his first ever loss notched on his record (via TKO) while getting his nose broken and his face busted up in the process.
It’s the way he was designed, and to that design he is faithful.
In a sport so unpredictable, Silva gives us something we can count on, and it’s the exact “thing” we want to see in the first place: a romp on the wild side.
Often, predictability in the fight game is a sin. But if a fighter’s going to be a sinner, it might as well be the sin of violence for the sake of the game. Arturo Gatti became a darling of the boxing world not because of his looks or his skills, but because of his heart and love of war.
And Silva is just like that, only more; he’s the pure, 100 proof physical incarnation of the true intent of the sport.
Of course, some think he’s either too violent or too simple; they like their fighters safe and erudite because affairs in the cage, in their true essence, are not.
Normally I loathe hip-hop-isms, but the saying “Don’t hate the player, hate the game” seems terribly appropriate.
“The Axe Murderer” may be the most honest man in all of MMA. While men like Chael Sonnen feel the need to write books to sell themselves, Silva reminds us that sometimes simpler is better.
“A picture is worth a thousand words” indeed, because with Silva, what you see is what you get.
And if you know you're going to get to see Silva either kick ass or die trying, well, that kind of thing sells itself.