Wanderlei Silva Free of UFC, but Battle with NSAC Still Looms Large

Jeremy BotterMMA Senior WriterJanuary 14, 2016

Wanderlei Silva before fighting Cung Le during a UFC 139 Mixed Martial Arts middleweight bout in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

The late-career tale of Wanderlei Silva took another interesting twist on Thursday.

To recap: Silva was dinged by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for running from a drug test in 2014. He was then provisionally suspended. When the NSAC finally heard his case, it dropped a lifetime ban from mixed martial arts on him with all the reactionary flair it has become so well known for.

There was just one problem with the punishment: Silva was not actually licensed in Nevada when the skipped drug test took place.

Silva's attorney Ross Goodman, believing the commission had no jurisdiction to punish a fighter not even licensed in the state, took the case to court last May. A Nevada judge disagreed, saying that the commission did have jurisdiction but also felt that there was not enough evidence to justify a lifetime ban from the sport. The judge rescinded the ban and sent it back to the commission for another punishment hearing.

Since then, Silva has been in a kind of limbo. His hearing has been delayed multiple times, with the latest happening during a meeting on Tuesday when the commission moved it to February.

Silva has been under UFC contract the entire time, a fact he was none too happy about. Last year, Silva began making erratic social media posts and videos where he claimed to have evidence that the UFC was involved in fixing fights.

This is no small claim; the owners of the UFC are owners of a massive chain of casinos in Las Vegas. Any hints of impropriety on their part would be massively damaging to their gaming license, which is the most valuable thing they own. Yes, even more valuable than the entire UFC.

So it came to no surprise when the UFC immediately responded to Silva's claims by filing a lawsuit for intentional misconduct over his claims. And that's where things stood until Thursday morning, when Silva posted the following statement to his Facebook page.

In July of last year, I posted a number of comments on Facebook and Twitter, which included repeated claims that the UFC "fixed fights" and that I could "prove it." I hereby retract any such statements in their entirety as I failed to understand that the term "fight-fixing" specifically refers to the illegal action or practice of dishonestly determining the outcome of a contest before it occurs. I understand the UFC's reputation would be harmed if my fans and others actually believed the UFC engaged in fight fixing, and I have no evidence to support such a claim. I apologize for any misunderstanding my comments may have caused.

Within an hour of Silva's statement to the public, the news came out that the UFC had released him from his contract. When reached afterward, Silva's attorney Ross Goodman would not comment to Bleacher Report on the terms of the confidential settlement between Silva and the UFC.

But Goodman noted that the most important thing to his side—that Silva be able to continue earning a living—was finally possible.

"Dana signed a mutual release yesterday," Goodman said. "He can go pursue other opportunities. He's very happy about getting all issues resolved between him and the UFC. It was a mutual agreement, and everybody is happy."

For the time being, while Silva's issues are being resolved with the NSAC, he won't be able to fight. At least not in the United States. He could go to the new Japanese promotion Rizin, where he would quickly be accepted as a returning hero from the PRIDE days and perhaps even a potential opponent for Fedor Emelianenko.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 11:  Current PRIDE fighter champion Wanderlei Silva of Brazil attends the announcement of The PRIDE Fighting Championships at the Hyatt Hotel on January 11, 2007 in West Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Chad Buchanan/Getty Im
Chad Buchanan/Getty Images

It feels more likely, however, that Silva will end up with Bellator. Scott Coker cherishes aging stars who still have name value; they are the biggest prop in his "tent-pole" shows experiment. Silva's best fighting days are behind him, but putting him against a Ken Shamrock or Tito Ortiz on Spike TV is a surefire way of attracting free television eyeballs. And Silva already signed a deal for personal appearances with Bellator once, back in November 2014. But the UFC immediately put the kibosh on that one by threatening to sue its competition for breaching a contract.

With the UFC in his rearview mirror, Silva is free to pick that personal appearances contract right back up. Chances are pretty good that, before you know it, Silva will be descending on a Dave & Busters near you alongside Randy Couture, Kurt Angle and others who are still proven attractions, even if only for meet-and-greet and selfie opportunities.

And it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone if Silva inks a deal to actually fight for Bellator in the future. In fact, I'd say that's the most likely outcome here.

But first, there is a score to settle with Nevada and with the arrogant men and women who make up the commission. They were already reprimanded, in a way, when the courts rescinded Silva's punishment and sent it back to them to do a better job. It feels a little bit like they've continually delayed rehearing Silva's case just to mess with him, but eventually they're going to have to actually do the jobs they were appointed to do.

Silva's side believes it is still in the right, that the commission had no jurisdiction to even test him in the first place, much less punish him. And even if the commission comes back with something like a two-year punishment—which, if dated retroactively, would mean the suspension is already over—I get the sense that it won't be over. Not for Silva.

There may come a day when Silva and Goodman take their case to the Supreme Court. It is a very real possibility. And if they do, they aren't doing it simply to right the wrong they believe happened to Silva. They'll be doing it to take the commission down a notch, to show it that it, too, must follow the rules, and that it is not the all-powerful entity it seems to believe it is.

And if that day ever comes, when Silva and Goodman strike a blow and make things better for current and future generations of fighters who must ply their trade under the watch of a corrupt Nevada commission, Silva will have done his best and most legendary thing.

Because while he was a warrior in PRIDE and a fan favorite and one of the most thrilling things to ever happen to this sport, this entire thing represents a scenario for him to help exact lasting change in a place that needs it the most.


Jeremy Botter covers mixed martial arts for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.