Win or lose, Anderson Silva's legacy will remain intact on Saturday night.
The 38-year-old looks to avenge his only loss in UFC when he takes on Chris Weidman at UFC 168. Their first bout ended with a shocking knockout, when Silva's in-ring antics left him too exposed, and Weidman connected with a combination of punches to end the fight.
A loss in the rematch may leave Silva feeling as if his career is unfinished, but there's no doubting he'll remain one of, if not the best fighter in the history of UFC.
Nothing will change the fact that Silva defended his Middleweight Championship 10 times, a record for the company. There's also the little matter of his 16 victories—tied for third-most in the company—two of which went to the judges' scorecards.
You can't retroactively change the record books. What Silva has done heading into Saturday night will remain forever.
In general, athletes, especially those in combat sports, are remembered by their best days. It's why hardly anybody remembers Muhammad Ali losing to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick, but his wins over George Foreman, Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier are the stuff of legends.
Fighters like Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes are also legends for what they did during their best years, not the ignominious way in which they ended their careers.
The same will be said of Georges St-Pierre.
In his prime, Anderson was head and shoulders better than the competition. He exerted such a dominance over his opponents that it became almost boring to watch him fight. "The Spider" would avoid any major blows and then effortlessly lock a submission or connect with one of those deadly knees.
After a while, it gets monotonous watching the same guy win over and over again, rarely having been tested.
Yet, that doesn't take anything away from Silva's accomplishments.
Genius is never truly appreciated in its time. Plenty of fans want to look at Silva and use whatever they can find to pick apart his legacy.
Maybe they didn't like his showmanship in the Octagon and what appeared to be a lackadaisical attitude toward his opponents and the sport in general.
While it's understandable why that could rub many the wrong way, Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports succinctly summarizes what's made Silva so great and why he commands so much respect:
He's a pro's pro, and Silva understands what is needed to succeed. He's never been the most outgoing with the media, and so perhaps he hasn't gotten the credit he's deserved for an incredible career – doesn't it seem that Georges St-Pierre got more credit, for doing less, than Silva? – but no one can knock his preparedness.
He never failed to be in shape and he never failed to be ready to fight. He might have spoken in riddles, but when the bell rang, the one constant is that we knew Anderson Silva would be ready to fight 25 hard minutes, if need be.
With any luck, the coming years will help to turn some fans around.
Silva made it seem as if he has no plans of retiring, via Fox Sports' Damon Martin:
After the last fight, after the dust settled I was sitting thinking alone and thinking maybe I should stop. Maybe this is it. But I got on the phone with my son and my son said, "Hey dad, do what you want to do, do what makes you happy," and that's what I'm doing.
I still have eight fights left on my contract and as long as I'm still enjoying it and I still want to go out there and have that desire to fight, I'm going to keep on fighting. If I'm going to retire, there's no way to say that right now. That's something that's going to come from the heart.
Make sure to tune in on Saturday night, because nobody knows if Silva will see out that contract. With his mercurial nature, he could end up walking away after UFC 168.
One thing is for sure: It's only in time that Silva's accomplishments and record will truly be appreciated.
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