Anderson Silva is arguably the greatest fighter in UFC history, but after the broken leg heard 'round the world ended his fight with Chris Weidman at UFC 168, his greatest career achievement hasn't yet been written.
A return to the Octagon would be the cherry on top.
Anyone who saw Silva's leg snap like a brittle old pretzel on the knee of Weidman will tell you it looked like a career-ending injury.
After the fight, UFC president Dana White was unable to speculate about Silva's future.
"He could come back, obviously, or it could be the end," White said, via Brett Okamoto of ESPN. "We'll have to see. He's going into surgery right this second."
The surgery White spoke of isn't one Silva will recover from quickly, as detailed by UFC.com:
Following Saturday evening's UFC 168 main event, former champion Anderson Silva was taken to a local Las Vegas hospital where he underwent surgery to repair a broken left leg. The successful surgery, performed by Dr. Steven Sanders, the UFC's orthopedic surgeon, inserted an intramedullary rod into Anderson's left tibia. The broken fibula was stabilized and does not require a separate surgery. Anderson will remain in the hospital for a short while, but no additional surgery is scheduled at this time. Recovery time for such injuries may vary between three and six months.
Professional athletes recover from gruesome injuries on a regular basis, but there's no guarantee Silva will ever get back to the same kind of form he's known for.
Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz doesn't think The Spider will ever be the same, and it's hard to argue with his assessment:
At his best, Silva was unbeatable in the UFC. He earned the Middleweight title back in Oct. of 2006 and held onto it for the better part of seven years, successfully defending it a record 10 times.
Athletes who compete at such a high level aren't usually inclined to continue competing if they can't live up to their own standards, and it's hard to imagine Silva would return to the Octagon unless he was fully confident in his ability to do so.
Even before his injury, Silva appeared to be slipping a bit, as clearly illustrated by his first loss to Weidman. Furthermore, Bleacher Report's Lead MMA Writer Chad Dundas believes the second fight was Weidman's before the shocking injury:
Through the first six minutes, the second fight had been all Weidman. The new champion hurt Silva with a short right hand from the clinch early in the first round. He came close to finishing the bout with a series of strikes on the ground before grinding out the rest of the stanza from inside Silva’s guard.
Age is likely a huge factor in Silva's recent fall from the UFC mountaintop. No doubt, Silva is still capable of getting into phenomenal shape. However, at the age of 38, his body isn't capable of recovering as quickly as it once did from punishment, nor is it as quick to respond to his mind.
Not only does the former champ need to overcome a devastating injury to make it back, but he must overcome his waning physical attributes.
By the time Silva's leg has healed enough for him to begin training, he'll be 39 years old. This is hardly the time of life most fighters have in mind for a comeback—especially champions who have already achieved everything possible, like Silva has.
If he does manage to overcome the injury and make it back into the Octagon, then his achievement should be counted as his greatest to date.
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