Anderson Silva: Fighting Spirit Defined

UFC 208 features the much-anticipated return (to Middleweight) of Anderson “The Spider” Silva. Winless since 2012, the man who many consider to be the greatest of all time attempts to break his recent losing streak when he faces Derek Brunson in the co-main event in Brooklyn, New York.

At 41 years of age, many wonder what is left in mixed martial arts for the pride of Brazil. Silva already holds records for longest reigning Champion and most title defenses – along with elite numbers in Performance Bonuses and Overall Wins. With a résumé like that it is difficult to imagine what else is left for the Brazilian to accomplish. Time and again Silva has cited his love for the game as the reason he has stuck around – perhaps inadvisably. While finances and future title-shots are noteworthy variables in his decision to stay it is clear that the former Middleweight Champion simply loves to fight.

Silva’s run as Middleweight Champion was unprecedented. Going unbeaten for nearly seven years, “The Spider” fought some of the toughest Middleweights at the time. Many have argued, quite convincingly, that the Middleweight division is head and shoulders above what it used to be. They point to Silva’s most recent losses as proof of him being overrated and not as a result of age and or other mitigating factors. These detractors claim Silva only looked so spectacular because he was fighting low caliber opponents. Overall this argument goes to far but it does have some notable strong points.

Despite defeating lesser competition overall Silva still managed to beat many elite contenders. While no one can doubt that 185 lbs has evolved into a more ferocious division that fact doesn’t diminish what Silva was able to accomplish in his prime. What most certainly can be called into question is the Curitiba native’s history with performance enhancing drugs and their possible impact on his career.

Whether or not you buy into Silva’s infamous liquid Cialis excuse the simple fact remains. He tested positive for a PED. Again whether this was a one-time thing, purportedly to heal up after a broken leg, or indicative of a career full of drug abuse is anyone’s guess. Detractors of the Brazilian will point to this test as the explanation for his ability to accomplish seemingly superhuman feats within the octagon. Fans of his will be more accepting of his reasons and likely won’t consider his entire career null and void. Depending on where you stand, especially as it pertains to doping in sports, you may or may not be sympathetic to Silva’s case. What is without question though is the blemish this test leaves on his legacy.

Ultimately I don’t believe Silva is fighting to undo that test result insofar as a few dominant wins might make people forget or overlook it. His recent appearances show an individual motivated to perform although perhaps no longer able to execute. Of his previous four losses all have been at the hands of either past or present UFC Champions. While his performances can certainly be critiqued the caliber of his opponents is irreproachable.

Even the GOAT is likely to have a handful of abysmal performances scattered within their career. While his losses to Cormier and Weidman were just that his decision loss to current Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping was controversial to say the least. Despite his losing streak and the stiff competition he has faced, “The Spider” is still extremely competitive. Although, he has shown a penchant for hesitation as of late many of his fights still reverberate with flashes of brilliance and a willingness, if not to give everything he has, to compete against the best.

Silva lost a lot of prestige when he failed his drug test. He had lost some earlier by never fighting GSP or Jon Jones. He lost even more when he seemingly laid down for Cormier at UFC 200. One has to wonder how much more he has to lose. A loss to a Middleweight in the bottom half of the top ten certainly wouldn’t help his cause. However, the UFC’s willingness to give him someone other than a current or former Champion points to a change in thinking. Silva’s stock can only plummet if he continues to lose. Most fans will tune in to watch him regardless but a favorable matchup, like Brunson, can put him back on a win-streak and give his career some much needed momentum.

A win this Saturday will not erase all the dark spots on the Brazilian’s legacy. They will not make up for his failed drug tests or his infrequent lackluster performances. Truth be told though I doubt Silva cares very much about any of that. He is the kind of mixed martial artists who focuses on the fight in front of him not the ones that fell by the wayside. Until it is assuredly life threatening for him to step into the cage he will continue to make that walk. We might hate him for staying to long or becoming a shell of himself but one thing we will never do is lose respect for his fighting spirit.

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