The name Anderson Silva evokes a plethora of thoughts.
From a legendary montage of highlight-reel knockouts where he dispatched a mixture of the best fighters across the MMA landscape in epic fashion, to his seemingly never-ending championship run as king of the UFC middleweight division, the Brazilian striker has given fans a long, hard gaze at what greatness in mixed martial arts can look like.
Gifted with a unique blend of speed, power and precision, when Silva has operated at his very best, the action that has unfolded has been a sight to behold.
The results and success produced from his work inside the cage created a mystique. When mixed with his free-flowing, unpredictable style, it put the majority of his opponents in the loss column before they ever stepped foot inside the Octagon.
The Muay Thai phenom shattered the UFC record books on the strength of several unprecedented streaks that ran throughout his seven-year reign over the 185-pound division. Silva raised the bar to lofty new heights as he notched 10 consecutive title defenses and logged an unbelievable 16 consecutive victories—14 of which came as the result of a devastating, and often times, brutal finish.
|Chris Leben||Fight Night 5||2006||UFC debut|
|Rich Franklin||UFC 64||2006||Wins MW belt|
|Rich Franklin||UFC 77||2007||Beats Franklin again|
|Dan Henderson||UFC 82||2008||Captures PRIDE WW belt|
|Chael Sonnen||UFC 117||2010||Losing, wins last-minute|
|Chael Sonnen||UFC 148||2012||Destroys in rematch|
|Chris Weidman||UFC 162||2013||1st UFC loss/KO of career|
He was a figure recognized above all others, but as fighters and other high-profile athletes rise higher into the public conscious, the pedestal they are placed upon can elevate to places far beyond the point where connection is possible. When greatness becomes the expectation, it becomes easy to forget the person involved is still a human being. Granted, a supremely talented and athletically gifted one, but a human being nonetheless.
When the inevitable loss or poor performance does come to pass, the fall becomes a storyline unto itself.
In Silva's case, that setback came on July 6 at UFC 162, when underdog Chris Weidman shocked the world by dethroning the pound-for-pound great via second-round knockout. Where past challengers have gotten caught up in Silva's ability to draw them into his fight, the Ray Longo-trained fighter kept his composure and turned the MMA world on its ear with a perfectly placed left hand.
In the immediate aftermath of the loss, Silva seemed in agreement—if not relieved by the passing of the torch. He told the crowd in attendance at the MGM Grand to embrace their new champion and that it was Weidman's turn to rule the division. Furthermore, he seemed to bristle at UFC president Dana White's talk of a rematch at the post-fight press conference.
When the 38-year-old walked off the dais that night in Las Vegas, it was uncertain if he would ever fight again. Nevertheless, it only took a handful of days before the former middleweight champion signed on for the rematch, and the fight world has been waiting in anticipation ever since.
On Saturday night at UFC 168, the waiting will come to an end when Silva and Weidman square off once more in what has been billed as the "biggest fight in MMA history."
While a lot was riding on their first meeting, the stakes are at an all-time high in this second go-around, as The Spider will look to regain a title that he held for seven years. And even though a multitude of storylines will dominate the build-up to the fight, only Silva knows what his motivation for the rematch truly is.
On the other hand, regardless of whether he's coming in as the champion or challenger, he is Anderson Silva. That name carries the expectation of greatness and brings a unique amount of pressure to the man who carries it.
"There is a lot of that involved," Silva told Bleacher Report in regard to hovering elements that surround his fights. "People create a lot of expectancy around what they see and what they want to see. When they don't see what they are expecting, they become a little bit frustrated. It is certainly something that exists. It is something that happens, but I believe it's completely normal."
Regardless of what happens on Saturday night, he will have a legacy that will endure the test of time the same as the great competitors in other major sports. He's come from humble beginnings in Curitiba, Brazil, to forge a legendary career on the sport's biggest platform, and the journey has been nothing short of remarkable.
While only he knows how much longer he'll continue to love the sport, it was his passion for the art of fighting that set his storied career in motion.
"My first inspiration was definitely Bruce Lee, but martial arts in general made me fall in love with fighting," Silva said about his early days in the sport. "Anything that revolves around that discipline is what made me want to do it. Especially around the time I started in this sport because there weren't a lot of guys competing at the top levels of the sport."
With so much on the line at UFC 168 and so many achievements behind him, the man regarded as "the greatest fighter of all time" will find himself at an interesting crossroads. A victory will push his mythical status further, while a loss will bolster talk that his days of greatness are over; however, the legend will most likely keep his smile intact and his love for life going strong, whatever may come.
"Of course!" Silva laughed when asked if his point of view on his career will remain the same regardless of the outcome of his rematch with Weidman. "Of course it will."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.