Stepping in to the cage with The Spider, the weight of the world must feel tangibly heavy as if riding on one’s shoulders at that moment in time. To tangle with Anderson Silva over the past few years, it meant a new experience was going to unfold in front of your eyes and directly at your expense.
I imagine it’s an experience that while gratifying to have earned when looking back over a lifetime, its left some of the best in the world staring out the window in their home, sitting in their car in the drive way, or maybe standing in the checkout line at the grocery store as the line moved slowly forward and further away from a lone pondering soul, stuck wondering why fighting and winning had led him to this place.
Remember, when it comes to title challengers at the highest level in the UFC, their hopes are running high going in to a title fight, regardless of who stands before them. Most of them have already faced a vast amount of adversity through climbing the ranks and defying the odds in a sport where consistency is the purest form of statistical improbability.
Anderson Silva defeated his first 16 opponents in the UFC and none fought the same afterwards. Whether they moved weight classes, changed their game plan, or simply avoided thinking about the few moments they stood unprotected and legally vulnerable against the greatest in the world, what they experienced was fighting someone ahead of their time.
With his ranging long reach and ridiculous accuracy and speed, it wasn’t enough that Silva appeared physically and technically more proficient than his opponents. He had to go out there and out class them by throwing every conventional technique out the window and put away his opponents with seemingly childish antics.
Now as the challenger for the first time since winning his second fight in the UFC and taking the belt against Rich Franklin at UFC 164, Silva will step in to the cage against the first man to knock him out in Chris Weidman, and for once, he might have to dig deep himself and evolve past the powerfully eroding force of time that will eventually (if not this Saturday) force him to fall back in to the past as a foot note in the history of combat sports, albeit as the greatest ever.
Choosing my words carefully, it’s difficult to imagine Silva winning this one. He’s already defied so much criticism in his career, so I don’t want to be a doubter, yet I can’t help the genetically unavoidable thought from wriggling in that screams for the eventually inevitable moment where youthfulness leaves and is replaced by age.
If Silva must go quietly in to the night on December 28th, I hope I’m prepared to watch the end of an era, and not find myself dumb founded as I was when it may have officially ended the first time Silva ran in to Weidman at UFC 162 back in July.
One thing that will always feel very unsettling, is how after his first loss in 17 fights, Silva walked out to the post fight presser, only to be welcomed by a wave of negative criticism and judgmental questions.
In a sport where everyone loses, even the best in the world, it seemed as if many of the intelligent and usually very articulate journalists in the MMA world had forgotten that even though Silva had failed to recreate a moment of brilliance like he had so many times before, it wasn’t for a lack of discipline that led him to where he had found himself clutching Herb Dean’s leg as he probably began to realize the fight was over as Dean wind milled his arms over him for the first time in his career.
Silva is our generations Muhammad Ali, our Mike Tyson, our Michael Jordan, and more over he’s the one we can YouTube to show our family and friends who might not understand the sport for what it has become and will probably continue to involve forward into.
We can point at the way he out maneuvered so many opponents such as Forrest Griffin, Rich Franklin, and Vitor Belfort, only to plant beautifully rendered technical and accurate strikes to end his fights.
When they smile and their consciousness expands a bit and they realize humans are capable of more than what they appear, we can enjoy the moment as we correct them, “No. It’s Anderson “The Spider” Silva.