Every other fighter who can claim to be a contemporary simply hasn’t accomplished as much as Silva, and although they may seem to be headed for the same lofty heights, many are the slips and stumbles between now and then.
For his fans, news that Silva signed a 10-fight deal with the UFC brings anticipation and expectation; they don’t wonder if he’s going to be defeated, they only see an extension of his greatness and their enjoyment of such.
To be fair, they don’t have many reasons to expect anything else.
Even though Silva is on the dark side of his 30s, he’s still shown that he can hang with the best of them on his worst day and blow them out of the water on his best.
And yet for all of his ability and success, for fans who have followed the fight game for any length of time, the fact that everyone must yield to time and age looms above Silva just like it does everyone else.
Accepting the facts as they stand doesn’t diminish Silva’s greatness, just like it didn’t that of fighters like Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Roberto Duran and countless other legends.
It is simply acknowledging the inevitability of age, and no one can argue that we all get old, even Anderson Silva.
Come April of this year, Silva will turn 38 years of age, and while everyone fully expects him to keep his razor’s edge as if it was a sword that never grows dull, the simple truth is that it’s astonishing that he’s managed to remain undefeated in the UFC for as long as he has.
And it’s not going to last forever; it probably won’t even last the duration of his new contract.
Given Silva’s current activity rate, which is about two fights per year, the fulfillment of his contract will find him at the age of 43, and he will be a lucky man if it finds him still wearing the middleweight belt.
Over the course of his 10-fight deal, he’s probably going to be facing men like Chris Weidman, Hector Lombard and possibly Georges St-Pierre and Jon Jones; all of them younger and very familiar with Silva and his greatness.
Odds are that Silva is going to start losing a step over that period of time, his reflexes slowing and his timing lagging bit by bit, and even though he is still well above the pack, those cracks in the armor are going to translate into some rough patches against the premier fighters of today.
Against men like Weidman, St-Pierre and Jones, who have an excellent takedown game to complement their youth and athleticism, the “foxing around the edges” that time brings to us all can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
And on a long enough timeline, everyone loses.
Silva has been fighting in the UFC since 2006; his new deal will carry him into the year 2018 if he only fights twice a year.
That’s 12 full years of hard training and fighting some of the very best fighters in the world—a long time for anyone to remain viable, let alone undefeated in a game built for young lions.
Silva knows this better than anyone, and he does indeed know it to be factual; every fighter in the combative sport begins to look at the clock sooner or later, and if they are smart, they retire on top.
And given that Silva is one of the smartest fighters in the sport, it is perfectly believable he will retire before his contract is up.
While there has been much talk about “Superfights” in MMA, Silva really doesn’t have to fight them if his age begins to show overnight. If his next bout is Chris Weidman, and the latter manages to score takedowns like Chael Sonnen did, he could give Silva a pretty thorough beating.
If Silva were to emerge from such a fight with the belt still around his waist, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he announced his retirement and took his shiny belt and unblemished UFC record with him into retirement.
Silva has been an absolute pleasure to watch, and I for one would like to see him make that ride into the sunset sooner rather than later.
Better that than to see him used up and beaten down for the sake of his successor and all of the false talk that will be hurled his way by his detractors.
Silva has always been a man who never claimed he was the best, but that he could do exceptional things toward the end of motivating others, and in that he has fully succeeded.
As greatness is usually a product of great ambition, it is no surprise that Silva signed to fight 10 times rather than four or five.
It just seems that this time we may see the night that his reach finally exceeds his grasp.