As the career of a sporting great winds down, we often ask ourselves if we will ever see their likes again.
With Anderson Silva rapidly approaching his forties, that same question can now be applied to him—unless his impending mid-life crisis takes the form of protracted mixed martial arts career.
Pele, Sampras, Jordan, Nicklaus, etc. have all come and gone in their respective sports, leaving unsurpassed legacies that we daren’t believe will be bettered—and certainly not in the near future.
However, if there is one thing we have learned from the sporting world it is that athletes are constantly improving.
Pele was followed by Maradona, Sampras was eclipsed by Federer, while Woods seems destined to transcend the achievements of Nicklaus. Sport is a perpetual game of one-upmanship, with records acting as guarantors of immortality.
Anderson Silva’s current 15-fight winning streak inside the Octagon might seem trivial when compared to the unblemished record of a Floyd Mayweather, but MMA and boxing offer different paths for their fighters.
Entry into the exclusive ranks of the UFC guarantees that future opponents will be amongst the best in the world. There is no record padding, no gimmes against journeymen who boast the kind of win-loss record that would make Bob Sapp blush.
If you need proof of this, consider for a moment that Silva’s nearest competitor is on a mere 9-fight run—though Jon Jones should be riding a 12-fight winning streak, but for Steve Mazzagatti’s dreadful officiating.
We can expect the long-reigning middleweight king to extend the gap this Saturday when he faces Stephan Bonnar, further solidifying his already peerless legacy.
For how long will Silva’s career remain the yardstick by which all others are judged?
It might not take as long as you think.
There are at least two fighters on the roster who could challenge the Brazilian’s greatness. The 25-year-old Jones has time on his side and, excluding having to endure a Vitor Belfort armbar, hasn’t looked even remotely close to losing.
The former JUCO national champion wrestler could theoretically hang around in the slightly shallow 205 pound division and punch holes in the competition for a few more years, which would probably get him somewhere close to Silva’s record.
Then there is GSP, who would be the current record holder if he hadn’t been mugged by Matt Serra in 2007.
The Montreal native is still just 31-years-old and, assuming he fully recovers from his knee injury, we can expect him to continue racking up the wins—with the tantalising prospect of a superfight with “The Spider" a very realistic possibility.
These are all ifs and buts, though. Mixed martial arts is an unpredictable sport and we have learned to respect its somewhat chaotic nature.
So can we expect to see another run like Anderson Silva’s? All things come to an end, even those sporting achievements that presently seem almost prohibitively elusive.