Fighters sometimes wade through boggy brains to find their words. When they do, we should know enough to receive them with skepticism. This is especially true following the sort of stunning defeat Anderson Silva suffered against Chris Weidman on Saturday, which is why I don’t expect he’ll cling to what he said.
After an uncorking, oxygen and time can impact fighters and wine alike. Silva, the finest vintage of them all, hadn't a chance to breathe when he expressed a perplexing disinterest in the belt he surrendered or the unbeaten New Yorker who just knocked “The Spider” from his web.
Instead, Silva expressed how tired he was of being champion. His time at the top was done. There would be no more high-stakes fights, despite recently signing a new 10-fight deal. This made people go crazy. To many ears, mine included, Silva’s reaction was off-kilter, an indelicate red as it were.
He was so deferential it came off as if he was abdicating the throne.
This is where tone confused people. The trouble was squaring Silva’s reaction with one befitting the sport’s pound-for-pound king. That designation is assigned for competitive dominance as much as overarching skill. Now the guy who ruled forever, the wizard and his ballet of violence, was picking up his ball and going home? Nuts.
Literally, it made people lose their minds. There were so many screams about a fix being in that Dana White was asked about it afterward. A savvy veteran fighter, who shall remain nameless, texted to tell me he thought something was “fishy.” I asked for specifics, but didn’t get a response.
Regardless, there’s no doubt that Silva spoke as if he was determined to leave Weidman in charge. In fact, he said so the week of the fight in an interview with Canadian reporter Joe Ferraro. Sarcastically but prophetically, Silva suggested the “perfect” outcome meant he'd no longer be a UFC titleholder. As for a rematch, which in a rare prefight statement White declared was automatically in play if Silva lost? A face was made suggesting a case of shingles would be more appealing.
Yet half an hour after picking himself up off the canvas, having taken time to breathe, Silva’s rematch repudiation had given ground to reason. At the postfight news conference, the 38-year-old magician conceded he needed time to figure it all out. Three to four months’ worth. He sought to reconnect with his family. He had to step away for a bit, he said. These were perfectly rational requests.
Silva should come to the conclusion that a rematch is the only decision worth making. Yes, the man’s legacy is set, however, it’s not done being written. If Silva declines to fight for the piece of hardware that came to define his career, that’ll be etched into his history, and as more than a footnote.
Silva devoted his life to martial arts. He should be excited to fight Weidman again. Finally. After all these years. A worthy challenger has emerged that didn’t require cloning, and he’s angling to do a series of, what, exhibitions?
The reality is Silva has two options at the moment: retire or rematch.
Who would have thought the middleweight icon needed reminding what it is to be a champion worthy of distinction?
Much has been made of his approach to the fight. Silva was more animated against Weidman than any opponent he faced before. Rather than go businesslike after the challenger the way he had against Chris Leben, or Dan Henderson, or Vitor Belfort, Silva hammed it up, attempting to rouse Weidman with showboating, hands-down, jelly-legged madness.
Silva essentially walked himself into a corner where he transformed from sitting champion to sitting duck. I imagine this will gnaw at him; his pride along with the money he can make with White will influence his return to championship fighting. Let’s hope it won’t be delayed by Silva’s desire to box Roy Jones Jr., who probably had flashbacks of his downfall as he saw history Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Or work on a movie, something he's currently involved in as part of a Kickstarter project. The longer Silva waits, the older he gets and the better Weidman will become.
When Silva chooses to fight, he should prepare for an MMA contest against the guy who just stopped him, not a meaningless boxing match that no one really cares about but him. As an undefeated champ, he had the leeway. Not so anymore. There would be more important things on his plate.
Silva has always fought on the edge. Playing it safe during the closing stretch of his career would be disappointing. He pushed himself to the precipice of safety and eventually took a tumble. If Silva chose to stand properly and defend himself, I think he still could be MMA's best middleweight. But that's only true if he agrees.
There's yet another reason he should embrace the rematch. The new champion, for all the niceties expressed about him, deserves a chance to prove his point. Fans should get to see Weidman make his case against the most dangerous version of The Spider. The tactical sharpshooter who smartly avoids opponents. Weidman deserves to fight the Anderson Silva who demolished Leben, Henderson, Nate Marquardt and Chael Sonnen. To his credit, the new champ wants that.