It's hard to imagine when watching Anderson Silva do the things he does that he's a 38-year-old fighter with nearly 40 professional fights to his record.
While Silva's age never seems to define him as he continues to reign over the UFC's middleweight division with an iron fist, there's no denying that eventually it will all come to an end. Every fighter, no matter how great, eventually has to walk away from the sport.
In Silva's case, despite the fact that he just recently signed a new long-term deal with the UFC, he has fewer years in front of him than behind, and talk of retirement will have to happen at some point.
It's safe to say the fans, media and even fighters he's bested will all realize at that moment just what MMA had in a fighter like Anderson Silva.
"I think that's one of the things people don't really think about or realize, but the day that comes when that man says 'I'm going to retire' it's going to suck," UFC president Dana White stated on Thursday when talking with a group of media at the UFC 162 festivities.
Silva's dominance isn't just seen by the eyes who have watched him do things inside the Octagon that no fighter has done before. The records back up the claims that Silva is the best ever, as he's reeled off 16 straight victories inside the UFC, with a 10 straight title defenses as well.
He's bounced up in weight to fight three times in a higher division, and he's finished 14 of 16 opponents overall.
The only sports figure that White could come up with to compare to Silva is NBA legend and Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, who is widely considered the best ever in his sport as well.
"It's literally like when (Michael) Jordan went away in basketball. How many games do they have a year in basketball, 80-something games? Whatever the number is, and you took it for granted every night that Jordan played right up until he left. I think that's going to be the case with Anderson Silva too."
White admits that every fight card is special in some way, but there is a different feeling whenever Silva is involved with a show. There's an energy in the arena that Silva is about to do something special at any given moment. When it happens, everyone is left with their jaws on the floor and eyes wide open.
"When he fights, I’m like 'oh s—t, something crazy's going to happen tonight.' If you look at the Vitor (Belfort) kick, what he did to Vitor, when (Stephan) Bonnar throws that spinning back kick and he steps to the side and then steps back in. He put his hands down and letting him hit him."
"I mean, the s—t that this guy does. The list goes on and on."
It's to the point with Silva where White believes the biggest challenges lie within the fighter himself and not even so much the opponents he's facing. Silva has already beaten the best of the best, so now he's just pushing himself every time he fights in the Octagon.
"The guy is amazing. I think every time this guy goes out there, he has some crazy, weird way to challenge himself, and just kind of play with things. You know how confident you've got to be in your f—king abilities, and your chin, and your skills and your age and all that s—t, and how absolutely f—king bad ass you've got to be to do the things that this guy does."
On April 16, 2003, Michael Jordan returned to the Washington Wizard's bench with 1:44 left to go in the game as the entire crowd of over 20,000 fans in attendance rose to their feet and applauded him for three full minutes. It was Jordan's final time to step foot on an NBA court, and fans realized at that moment just how special his career was over the years.
Silva hasn't set a date or time when he may walk away from fighting, but when it happens, every fan, no matter where they are, no matter what they are doing, should appreciate the kind of greatness they witnessed every time the Brazilian champion strapped on his gloves and went to work for the day.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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