It's hard to believe that Wanderlei Silva is just 35 years old.
That doesn't seem right.
Silva, after all, has been around since 1996, when he scored his first professional win in his debut fight against Dilson Filho. He was one of the biggest stars in the MMA world during his run in PRIDE's heyday, terrifying fans and opponents alike with his death glare and violent knockout power.
It feels like Silva should be 45 years old. Not 35.
But make no mistake about it: Silva's 35 years are very different than most. The wars in Japan and the six violent knockouts he's suffered over the course of his career have worn away plenty of tread from his tires. It's evident in his suspect chin and even in his slurred speech, which has gotten progressively worse over the past three years.
If it were up to me, Silva would've been forced to retire after his loss to Chris Leben, or perhaps even after the loss to Rampage Jackson back in 2008. But it's not up to me, and to hear Silva tell it, he believes he still has what it takes to compete in the UFC:
"I think I took one step away from that wall. I still need to prove I can fight.
"We'll need to look at the performance. I feel good. I hope to make a good fight that makes the boss and the fans happy.
"I'm more healthy now than I was at 22 years because I train and live a really good life. We are not like machines; we can't train as fast after years but I feel really happy and I want to give fans a good fight. When I can't do that anymore, I'll stop."
Should Wanderlei Silva retire after the Franklin bout?
I'd like to think that Silva's TKO win over Cung Le late last year signaled some kind of career renaissance. It was emotional and dramatic moment for a fighter many believed to be washed up and on the verge of doing serious long-term damage to himself.
But I believed then — and still believe to this day — that the win over Le was an aberration and not a sign of things to come. No matter how much Silva believes he can still fight like the young lion he once was, the truth is that he's still constantly teetering on the verge of being forcibly retired.
Rich Franklin may not be the guy to do it, but somebody will. And I hope Silva realizes it before he takes more damage than he can handle.