What entails a legacy?
For many, a legacy is what one remembers another by. For an athlete, it's how the fans will reflect on their career. More specifically, for an MMA fighter, a legacy is the legitimacy of their career.
More often than not, a fighter will say they aren't concerned about their legacy. They say they take it one fight at a time and for the most part are at peace with how their career wraps up. This is especially true if one were to retire with an outstanding record.
Take, for example, the man many consider to be the greatest MMA fighter of all-time, Anderson Silva. Silva has compiled a professional MMA record of 33-5 (16-1 UFC) and holds the record for the most consecutive title defenses with 10. In addition, he also holds the record of the longest winning streak in UFC history with 16.
Of course, both of those streaks ended on July 6 at UFC 162 when Silva let his guard down a little too much and Chris Weidman capitalized by knocking him out after a minute and 18 seconds of the second round.
Almost immediately, it appeared that talks of a rematch were already buzzing around, and within a week the date for Silva vs. Weidman II was set for December 28 at UFC 168 in Las Vegas.
We've seen what happens when Silva gets angry, he gets as locked-in and becomes more dominant than anybody in the sport. What we really haven't seen is how he responds after being humbled. My guess is that we're going to see the best performance of his career when he steps in with Weidman once again.
Although Silva is at the tail-end of his career, he still has a lot left in the tank. If he beats Weidman, there will no doubt be a Silva vs. Weidman III. He will first need to show fans on December 28 why so many consider him the greatest.
For those who aren't sold on Silva's legacy, it's because they don't feel as if he has faced the best fighters the sport has had to offer. That's why so many were hoping for him to steamroll Weidman and finally setup a fight with Jon Jones or Georges St-Pierre.
In an essence, it is reminiscent of how so many people discount boxing's Floyd Mayweather Jr's career. The difference here, however, is Silva doesn't appear to be dodging opponents like Mayweather—it's simply just the timing of the competition from within the UFC.
When one scrolls through the people Silva has beaten during his illustrious career, there are definitely wins against quality opponents that include:
- Rich Franklin (twice)
- Dan Henderson
- Forrest Griffin
- Chael Sonnen (twice)
- Vitor Belfort
- Yushin Okami
The problem for Silva is that fans compare the names he has beaten in 16 years of being a professional to those that Jon Jones has beaten in just five. The wins for Jones in those five years include:
- Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
- Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
- Lyoto Machida
- Rashad Evans
- Vitor Belfort
- Chael Sonnen
Who has faced tougher competition in their career?
These six wins for Jones were actually his last six fights that have taken place in just the last two years. You can see how the argument for Jones having more competition than Silva can weigh heavily towards favoring Jones.
This is precisely why Siva's legacy is going to be on the line. He will forever be linked with Jones in every discussion about who had a better career. Should Silva lose, Jones is going to win the debate hands down. Especially considering Jones is just 25 years old and still evolving as a fighter. Of course, there is always time for Jones to stumble as well—that's just the nature of any sport.
Silva's legacy now relies on the success of him avenging his loss to Weidman and being dominant in winning his belt back. Will he ever have to face Jones or St-Pierre to truly cement himself as being the best ever? I'm not so sure of that. The fact is he has faced the best opponents from within his division for quite some time now. And until recently, we didn't think he could be beaten.
It's rare when we see any athlete go out on top. Anderson Silva, although in the midst of a long-term fight contract, could step out at any time. Should he get knocked out again, I don't think many of us would be surprised to see him call it a career. Ending his career on back-to-back losses would, however, deteriorate the lasting image fans have on his career.
If Silva wants to restore his legacy as being the greatest MMA fighter of all time, he needs to beat Weidman and become a champion once again.
Joe Chacon is a contributor to Bleacher Report, The MMA Corner and Operation Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeChacon.