June 8, 2006 may not be a date that will live in infamy, but it's a day that an undone Chris Leben will likely never forget—one that, despite the hellacious amount of beatings his body and brain have chewed off and spat out since, has come to be part of quite the MMA time capsule, over seven years in gestation.
It was his much-anticipated UFC debut. His victim, the aforementioned Leben, had no earthly idea as to the degree of web he was about to be tangled up in. The beatdown that "The Spider" spun violent on Leben's dome, Silva's strikes slicing through Leben like a hot surgical knife playing the violin through unsuspecting buttah, well, it was something to see.
So maybe it was fitting, or just cruel, that Silva and Leben both fought, and lost, last night—Silva in the main event and Leben headlining the preliminary portion of the fight card.
Seven years can take take its toll on a man, any man (or woman now).
But when said men subject themselves to the kind of labor that Silva and Leben do—plying their trade in a steel cage wrapped around an unforgiving canvas floor—well, it can only go on for so long. Only go on for so long and go well, that is.
This sport will let you sand yourself down to subatomic particles if you let it.
Not in the Octagon, of course. Dana White has a good record of asking someone with less brain cells than when they started talking fight to please trade in their five-ounce gloves for a figurehead role within the organization.
(There is no ill will in that graph, either. Simply a not-so-soigne-facts-of-life kinda thing that anyone who puts a little time in, or way too much, will leave this sport with less gray matter. And it is a good thing that a guy like Chuck Liddell can graduate from the cage to conference room with little to no downtime).
But for those not so fortunate, they may end up fighting their guts out—metaphorically speaking, of course—for some XYZ, fly-by-night (and/or fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants) organization in some no-name town in the Midwest, or Florida.
And all of this is not to damn anyone specific.
Not to damn the man. Certainly not to damn Dana White. He is, by all accounts, a model citizen in this sport. The pillar of good health, if you will.
Or the used car salesman guy who starts that XYZ organization and "pays" nameless, faceless, warmish bodies to take a dive, take a beating or just take it on the chin as best they can even though they have no reasonable idea how to actually fight beyond what you might see in a bar on a Saturday night as John Mellancamp or ACDC blares above the ego-driven and intoxicated blood-spill.
MMA has gone mostly mainstream.
It is a legitimate sport—and those that say otherwise are shrinking in size and stature.
A sport with real men and women who have fought in wars, birthed and raised children, fear God, pay their taxes and so forth. Why they do what they do (hell, why do any of us do what we do?) is of no matter. We do what we do because we can and/or want, because something inside of us itches away and the only way to bring temporary relief is to find our scratch post in life and hold on for dear life.
For some, fighting is that scratch post (sometimes a stick of dynamite). For others, it's crochet—or cat videos.
The sport has all the bells and whistles it needs, and then some, as far as rules and regulations. At least at the level of the UFC, Bellator and a few other leading organizations (once you get beyond the pines, though, things may get a little too dicey for most people's comfort levels).
But I digress.
Back to Silva and Leben.
They both had their respective runs in this sport.
Silva elevated himself a rung, or 20, above Leben's. Not that anyone is counting, at least not right now.
The two will forever be intertwined. From that night back in the summer of 2006 to the more recent outing that will be forever remembered by MMA scholars and riffraff alike, another time capsule, a bitter melon reminder of impermanence—that nothing, yes nothing, lasts forever.
Just, if one is so lucky, remembered—or not forgotten.
These two will be remembered. Neither will soon be forgotten, not by those who breathe sweetly from the ever-expanding MMA atmosphere. Especially the one that is, at this present moment, the greatest mixed martial artist to ever step inside our dialed-down thunder dome. Existential angst, do your worst.
And this MMA thing—it will keep on rolling along (the same could be said for football or boxing).