UFC middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva is known to many as simply the “G.O.A.T” (greatest of all-time). His intelligence inside the octagon, adaptability and ever advancing mixed martial arts skills have allowed the Brazilian to excel, even at 38 years old.
On Monday, July 1, 2013, at a press lunch, Silva announced that if he was to fight Jones, he would lose. He stated, "If I fight Jon Jones, I don't think I'm going to win."
The statement sent shockwaves throughout the world of MMA and left many in awe.
A significant part of the fight game revolves around mental toughness and confidence. In that, the Brazilian’s admission of imminent defeat regarding a match-up with Jones was bewildering.
However, some believe that Silva’s admission may have simply served as an attempt to hype a fight between him and the light heavyweight champion in the future. Dan Wetzel, of Yahoo! Sports, stated, “It might have been the first time in fighting history that reverse trash talk excited the public. The fact that the guy who never loses says he doesn't think he can actually win, just adds to the build-up.”
Nevertheless, there is something to be said for transparency and truthfulness. There is no reason to not take Silva’s statement at face value. He understands his own skills and abilities better than anyone. Given his experience, he also comprehends the tremendous dangers of fighting someone like Jones. According to Yahoo! Sports columnist Dave Doyle, Silva went on to state:
Jon Jones, in his class, is the best. Jon Jones is different. He's large. But, in the fight, I see in Jon Jones, I see myself from a long time ago. He's very smart.
At the middleweight level, Silva appears to have run out of viable opponents to face. Assuming he remains undefeated against Weidman at UFC 162, the Brazilian will have beaten four of the division’s top-10 fighters, including Vitor Belfort (No. 2), Yushin Okami (No. 3) and Chael Sonnen (No. 9).
Silva finished every one of the latter opponents (Sonnen twice) and has reigned over the middleweight division for seven years. The Brazilian is the longest reigning UFC champion. He also holds the following distinctions within the UFC:
*Most title defenses (10)
*Most finishes in title fights (9)
*Most overall finishes (14)
*Most consecutive wins (16)
Anderson Silva Defeats Chael Sonnen at UFC 148
At 38-years-old, Silva has won all 16 of his UFC fights and has made many top-level fighters appear amateurish in the midst of their own demise. Even when the Brazilian moved up to face opponents in the 205-pound division, he toyed with the likes a UFC Hall-of-Famers and former light heavyweight world champion Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar.
However, despite his greatest accolades and achievements, age may be Silva’s biggest, most challenging threat. Many fighters accumulate a tremendous win streak, only to one day become “old.” Many times, combatants remain in the fight game beyond their prime. Examples include, but are not limited to: Chuck Liddell, Gary Goodridge, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Tito Ortiz, Frank Shamrock and Mark Coleman.
Fighters may overstay their welcome for a variety of reasons—money, fame, or even relevancy. However, they risk losing, and not to better-equipped opponents. At the end of their career, many fighters succumb to a diminished skill set and a decrease in reaction time. In Silva’s case, a blow to his legacy is more of the concern.
Silva will battle Weidman at UFC 162, and according to the former NCAA Division I wrestler, he poses a great threat to the champion. In a recent interview with MMA Weekly, Weidman stated:
I think the biggest thing is just - I'm very confident. I know my skill set. I've seen what Chael (Sonnen) has done to him. I've seen his weaknesses and I think I can expose them again and look for a finish or a good performance. I really feel like, on paper, I'm a nightmare match-up for Anderson Silva.
On July 6, Silva will gain hardly anything by beating Weidman. It will pad his already illustrious resume and prove nothing that isn’t already known about the Brazilian’s greatness. However, if he loses, his undefeated streak will end and so will the mystique that surrounds the one who many deem the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time.
Ultimately, Silva’s admission of his inability to beat Jones was alarming. This revelation, accompanied by his age and lack of viable contenders in his weight class give light to the forthcoming end to Silva’s era. Therefore, to safeguard the champion’s legacy in the world of mixed martial arts, it would behoove the G.O.A.T to retire after UFC 162.