If you're a member of the MMA media, and you like living dangerously, why not go ahead and get your UFC 162 work out of the way right now? No reason to wait until July 6 to scramble and race the clock on deadline. The narrative practically writes itself.
Middleweight champion Anderson Silva will show up for work in Las Vegas, looking bored as only he can. He will do some distracted interviews, pretend he doesn't speak English and hold the entire press corps in glorious disdain. No great fighter has ever done less than Silva to build his reputation in the media. The fact that he's become a huge star anyway speaks volumes about his other-worldly talent and skill.
With his crew dressed in some kind of matching bumble bee gear, he'll do a silly pre-fight workout. Maybe his kids will participate. Perhaps Steven Seagal will be there in a billowy Hawaiian shirt of some sort. It will be wacky.
During the course of the week, we'll all halfheartedly try to pretend that Chris Weidman has a chance in Hades against the best fighter of all time. That he's more than a guy who beat up an injured Mark Munoz and then disappeared from the face of the Earth. We'll talk about his skill set, about Silva's vulnerability to top-control wrestlers, about the fact that, in sport's years, Silva is practically Methuselah.
But we won't really believe it. Because Anderson Silva always wins. Always.
To be honest with you, it's taken me a long time to come to this conclusion. From the very start, I was a skeptic. Since his UFC debut, I've been wrong over and over again.
If you know where to look, you can find me pontificating about how Chris Leben was going to teach Silva a lesson in his Octagon debut. What happened next was legendary, like one of those grisly nature videos where a lion separates a young gazelle from the herd.
Leben is a scrappy fighter with heart for days—but he's just a man. Anderson Silva is barely even human. His reflexes, timing and instinct come straight out of a video game. Real people don't move like Anderson Silva. If I hadn't seen him with my own eyes, you could conceivably trick me into believing his entire career is nothing but high-end CGI. He's that good.
Of course, the Leben fight taught me no lessons. Next I was all aboard the Dan Henderson Express. Then Chael Sonnen. Time and again I rationalized picking against Silva. Time and again I ate my words.
Finally, I admitted defeat. But surely, even if no man could beat him, the aging process was an unconquerable and undefeated enemy. Not even Silva could outlast Father Time.
That was two years ago:
MMA fans have been spoiled by, a man defying the odds, somehow able to compete at a high level well into his 40's. That's almost unheard of in the entire history of professional athletics. For an athlete like Silva, one who relies heavily on natural gifts of speed and astounding reflexes, time is a fighter's most fearsome foe.
...In sports, everyone gets old eventually. We've seen Brett Favre prone on the field gasping in pain. We've seen Michael Jordan, inexplicably in the blue jersey of the Washington Wizards, limping up and down the court yelling at teammates and looking like a grumpy old man. We've seen Muhammad Ali beaten and battered by the likes of Trevor Berbick.
With rare exceptions, all the great ones leave their sport of choice humbled and beaten. None of that diminishes what they've accomplished before. Anderson Silva has been a transcendent figure in mixed martial arts. When the day comes that he finally succumbs to age, injury, or even a better fighter, I hope we give him his due.
Since I foolishly decided to write his professional obituary in 2011, Silva has won four straight fights, all of them by knockout. And yet, the above rings truer now than ever before.
Silva is 38 years old. His body does carry the wear and tear of 37 professional fights. For more than a decade he has fought the best of the best in Pride and the UFC.
His days are numbered. They have to be. If Silva doesn't start slipping, and soon, it's time to consider subjecting him to our most brilliant evil scientists. Not as a punishment, but to bottle whatever it is that flows in his veins. For the good of all mankind.
NBA star Kobe Bryant gets treated like he's one step from a retirement community in Florida. He's all but yanking his pants up to his chest and talking about how it was in the old days. He can barely even dunk.
Kobe Bryant is just 34.
Intellectually, I know that a fighter at 38 is nearing the end. I know it. No matter how much we want Anderson Silva to stand in the Octagon forever, nonchalantly dodging punches and delivering humiliating justice, his time must—inevitably—come to an end.
Despite that, you won't catch me counting him out. I won't be picking Chris Weidman, or anybody else, to end his reign. And when that day does come, a part of me dreads what happens next. Anderson Silva has been the best fighter this sport has ever seen. I'm not ready to go on without him.
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