Sorry, Wanderlei. I really am.
It was never you, it was me. I let doubt creep into my heart, to blind me.
An insidious thing, doubt. You never allowed it to take root. Even after brutal knockout losses to Quinton Jackson and Chris Leben (Chris Leben!), you never faltered.
I did—we all did. Your so-called fans.
Before the fight I couldn't help but express the sickness I had roiling in my gut:
What's so sad about Silva is that he doesn't seem to realize he isn't "The Axe Murderer" anymore. And so he returns, again and again, to the cage. Each time it's to diminishing returns.
His body, and no doubt his brain, have been battered. Hopefully not beyond repair, but we've all seen what happens to aging fighters who have been through the gauntlet. It isn't pretty.
It was my weakness. Feelings—I caught them. I couldn't help it. I wanted to see you as an immortal wrecking ball, a "guerreiro." But I wasn't strong enough.
I saw the damage you took, even in victory, and I didn't want to watch you suffer anymore. Selfishly, it wasn't just your physical health I worried about, it was your legacy, Pride's legacy. Isn't that sick?
I saw the way you'd slowed down, the way fighters you once would have flicked away with casual disdain now gave you fits.
In 2002, a man like Cung Le would have been no more than a finger in the dike, a momentary inconvenience before the tidal storm that was Wanderlei Silva washed over him. Those days were gone. Despite the amazing win over Brian Stann, they still are.
What we learned against Stann, what we should have known all along, is that Wanderlei Silva isn't meant to go meekly into the darkness. While some fear diminishing physical and mental acuity, you never have. It's a price you, and too many other fighters, are willing to pay for greatness, trading tomorrow for today.
It wasn't right for me to expect a man like you to see the world the way I do. The truth is that Wanderlei Silva isn't a man like other men. You are a peerless warrior.
My colleague Jack Slack wondered if you weren't too old to change. The truth is that you wouldn't if you could. Standing and trading leather, testing your willpower against another man's is how you feel alive.
I don't understand it. I'm glad I don't. I'm just as glad you do.
Go forth, my friend, and conquer. May all your foes be as tactically unsound as Stann. May all your fights be in Japan, where the ghosts of Pride are still there to gird your loins and haunt your foes.
Until that last winging hook goes thud, until that last opponent says to himself, in a final, fleeting second of consciousness, "I've made a horrible mistake," I'm in. The world needs Wanderlei Silva. I need Wanderlei Silva. I'll never leave your side again.