Breaking Down Anderson Silva's Reasons for Not Wanting to Fight Jon Jones
A couple of years ago anyone with the vaguest interest in mixed martial arts was clamouring for a “superfight” between Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva.
Both men had virtually cleared out their divisions and it seemed an era-defining head-to-head between the two was inevitable. Then a couple of things happened that set the course of their fates on a different trajectory.
Silva almost got beaten by Chael Sonnen, and all of a sudden the middleweight division looked more alive than ever. The UFC switched its attention to preparing for an eagerly anticipated rematch between Sonnen and Silva, pulling all the strings it could and coping with Sonnen’s suspension.
At the same time, the promotion was focused on keeping GSP busy. Fighters like Jake Shields and Nick Diaz were shipped in from Strikeforce to keep the French-Canadian welterweight occupied and, in the case of Nick, created enough drama and personal animosity that any thought of a Silva/GSP superfight was quickly forgotten.
In the middle of it all, one of the biggest phenomenons in the history of MMA went on a dizzying run to grab the light heavyweight championship and put to bed some of the greatest fighters ever to enter the Octagon.
All of a sudden, a Jon Jones vs. Silva match was the only fight that made sense. To fight GSP, there’d have to be a catchweight or one of the fighters would have to move up or down a division. But Silva had plenty of experience at 205 pounds to step up against Jones. What’s more, the two men would be a much more thrilling match-up stylistically: flashy, inventive and long-limbed.
Now both Silva and GSP have once again cleaned out their divisions. Looking over his shoulder and wary of the prospect of fighting Jones, the Brazilian middleweight is doing all he can to make the GSP superfight happen.
Why such aversion to facing Jones? Silva has given some clues in his interviews. Here’s a breakdown of his reasons for not fighting Jones.
He Has Friends at Light Heavyweight He Thinks Should Face Jones
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One of Silva’s most oft-repeated reasons for not fighting Jones is the fact that he has so many teammates at 205 pounds and doesn’t want to challenge for a title there.
"There's other guys in that weight class on our team like Rafael (Cavalcante), (Antonio Rogerio) Nogueira ... (and) other guys that could potentially face Jones in the future,” says Silva (H/T MMA Junkie)
There is some truth to this. The guys at Black House have a camaraderie that is rare in this age of commercial gyms and mercenary fighters. Silva and Lyoto Machida, for example, have trained together for years. It’s unthinkable that Silva would want to get in the way of his friend's desire to avenge his loss against Jones and reclaim the title for himself.
But this problem is easily circumvented. There’s no reason that a title need be on the line. For a superfight, the UFC could easily put together a non-title fight which will still pull the biggest crowds the promotion has ever seen. Both men could walk away with their belts in hand and the likes of Machida and Nogueira could then have their turn on Jones.
Besides, any fight between the two is likely to be at catchweight, like the match against GSP, so Jones’s title is a non-issue.
He’s Too Old for Jones
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You can never tell with Silva. Last year his manager was saying we’ll only see him in action four more times before he hangs up his gloves.
Then, after beating Sonnen earlier in the summer, he was saying he wanted to fight a further six years.
The fighter has two more fights left on his UFC contract, but any way you look at it, Silva has passed the halfway point of his career. He’s been fighting since 1997 and has straddled multiple eras. It’s clear from his words that he’s looking to ride out his twilight with a handful of key fights and then fade into the sunset.
This is one of the reasons he keeps giving for avoiding Jones.
"I'm 37 years old, and I feel like I need to be honest and continue what I've built, which is keep defending my belt at 185,” he said recently (H/T MMA Junkie)
There are clearly mixed messages coming from the champ. On the one hand, he seems more in love with the sport than ever, itching for superfights with GSP, dismissing talk of retirement and, let’s face it, sitting on top of a career peak as the most talented and in shape he’s ever been. On the other hand, he is pushing 40, and to face a young, athletic lion could indeed be too much for him.
It could be that, in his mind, he only has one big fight left. The rest of his time he’ll ride out beating up men of Stephan Bonnar’s calibre. It’s obvious to him that the one superfight should be against GSP.
He’s Focusing on GSP and Will Drop Down a Division to Face Him
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As mentioned, Silva has the option of two men for that big-money superfight he seems to be itching for. It’s either Jones or GSP—not both.
For GSP, he’ll likely have to drop to catchweight, and that, at his age, requires tremendous mental energy and focus. They say he makes 185 pounds easily, but 178 or 175 is another matter.
Going down to take on GSP and then going up to 205 pounds to face Jones could be too much for him.
He keeps telling us his “focus” is on GSP. Having to look behind himself and in front of himself is clearly too much, so any talk of Jones needs to be categorically dismissed for now.
GSP Is Easier; Jones Is Too Hard
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In his own words (H/T MMA Playground):
"I think [GSP] would be a great challenge for me. I prefer him over Jon Jones. He's smaller. It'll be a little bit easier. I'll be hit less."
What more is there to say?
GSP is easier, Jones is hard—as is Chris Weidman. Of course he wants to finish his career by pummeling the only other man considered the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world alongside himself. A man who just happens to fight 15 pounds lighter.
Silva Doesn’t Need to Win to Prove He’s a Champion
Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
The last reason, scouring Silva’s recent comments as to why he doesn’t want to face Jones, is because he doesn’t think he needs to beat the 205-pound champion to prove he’s a champion.
“You have to have a champion's mentality to fight a champion,” said Silva recently. “You can't have a defeated mentality. All opponents of champions have to have the mentality of a champion. Not a 'challenger's (mentality).'"
What does this suggest? That Silva believes he’ll be going into the Jones fight as a challenger, not a champion? But then, how is that different to facing welterweight champion GSP?
Perhaps this is a reflection of his own attitudes and how he sees the two men—a sign of the respect he accords to Jones which he doesn’t bestow on GSP.
Perhaps, deep down, he really is scared of Jones and feels he’d be the underdog in that match. And that’s simply not a place he feels comfortable in.