Here’s a weird little fact you probably already know: MMA is obsessed with the future.
In order to satisfy what we’re led to believe is a nearly inexhaustible interest in our sport, journalists and fans are constantly spinning things forward, trying to jump the line of reality to predict what might happen next.
We prognosticate, we forecast, we speculate wildly about outcomes we couldn’t possibly know. Before the sweat is dry on the brow of a winning fighter, we’ve usually already booked his/her next fight, predicted the likely result of that fight and decided what it will mean amid a landscape of other things that probably haven’t happened yet.
There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s all in fun—a natural byproduct of the fight game in the age of instant communication—but even though I willingly participate, I’ve never fully made peace with it.
You don’t either, and I love that about this fight.
In fact, one of the most anticipated aspects of what is arguably the most anticipated rematch in UFC history is that we have no clue what’s going to transpire when Weidman and Silva enter the cage. We don’t know who will win, how they’ll do it or how strange it may or may not be.
Even more than normal, there's a sense that this bout could break any which way. In a sport where there is an allegedly big fight every month and so many crystal balls are routinely polished to such a high gloss, that’s the ultimate luxury.
Granted, we’ve tried to guess. We always try. But if you took all of the stories written about what will happen at UFC 168 (mine included) and put them on a spool, we could bill it as the world’s largest toilet-paper roll. We could pitch a tent roadside in Ohio and charge tourists $5 to take pictures with it.
Because that’s what all our conjecture is worth this time around.
The circumstances of their first bout at UFC 162 put us in this delicious mess. Prior to that bout, some people picked the upstart Weidman to unseat the longstanding champ. A bunch of people played it safe and went with Silva. In the end, none of it mattered. Nobody, and I mean nobody, thought it was going to go down like that.
When Weidman responded to the tired old saw of Silva’s playacting and mockery by stepping up and knocking him out, it essentially made all our guesswork moot. If that can happen the first time, well, why even waste our breath talking about how the next one will go down?
There are just too many unknowables here. Was Weidman’s win legitimate? Did Silva beat himself? Can the challenger-turned-champion possibly do it again? Will Silva repeat the same bizarre performance he’s been presenting on and off for the last few years? Does he even want to be there?
Anyone who says they know the answers to these questions is lying, and they are not your friend.
This time, it might be nice to dispense with all the speculation and just soak in the fight.
Because, really, here’s the point: Oftentimes, our sport gets so wrapped up in asking “what’s next?” that we forget to enjoy the present. In our clamor to get to the next thing, we don’t give ourselves time to revel in right now.
And this is a moment that deserves to be savored.
Not to overinflate things (another of our industry’s recurring sins), but what we have on tap this weekend is something we’ve never seen before. It's something we might never see again.
Our sport’s greatest champion will try to rebound from a loss inside the Octagon. He’ll take on a competitor who is undefeated, and in their only previous meeting, he proved to not only be his equal but also his superior.
What will happen?
We don’t know.
Who would want it any other way?