I cannot write this column without interjecting myself into it. It wouldn’t be fair to defend Anderson Silva without acknowledging that at one time I disputed UFC President Dana White’s claim that Silva was the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Call me crazy, but I believe in making such determinations on my own and not having a promoter try to make them for me.
But the man who was most vocal in proclaiming Silva the pound-for-pound best is now the same man that is so disappointed at the fair-weather treatment of Silva by both his employers, select members of the media, and some of his so-called “fans” that he felt compelled to write the same article twice.
The criticism of Silva comes off to me as nothing more than sour grapes. White and the UFC bet the house on Silva on Saturday night and they lost. Despite presenting a paper-thin card to the masses, they still charged exorbitant ticket prices and the pay-per-view asking price remained in the $44.95-$54.95 range. Chances are the UFC felt they could push the envelope because of the presence of Silva. When blood-thirsty casual fans that can only appreciate a knockout were delivered Patrick Cote’s head on a platter, everyone would feel like they got their money’s worth. It was almost as if the UFC promised everyone a televised execution and when Cote didn’t fry, everyone booed.
White is the same guy who said anyone who disputed Silva’s uncrowned position as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world was “insane.” Yet because Silva fought like a true fighter and not a performance artist last night, White felt compelled to chastize him in public.
“I think he had a bad night,” White told Yahoo! Sports and ESPN Radio’s Steve Cofield. “I think he had a bad night tonight, and I think we saw that he’s human. Even he can have a bad night.”
Wait a minute; a bad night? Did I miss something? Did Anderson Silva not win last night’s fight via third round TKO? Did Silva not decisively win both rounds 1 and 2? Did Silva absorb virtually no damage in that fight against one of the most punishing punchers in the UFC’s middleweight division? Did the man not preserve his unblemished record in the UFC and improve to 8-0 inside the Octagon?
We saw that he was human? You mean as opposed to a robot who turns out highlight reel KOs on command? In that regard, Silva is human after all. Then again, Silva might have delivered the KO everyone was looking for had Cote not suffered a freak knee injury in the center of the Octagon.
But because Silva wasn’t able to carry the show, suddenly he’s not good enough for White and other members of the media that drank White’s kool-aid. Many of the same people that tried to place Silva on this magical pedestal that stood above the rest of the world’s best fighters are the same ones trying to discredit Silva’s legacy and oversimplify the challenges that are inherent to sanctioned combat. And some of the ammunition they are using against Silva is downright insulting.
I really do not understand how these “experts” can question Silva’s lack of command of the English language when many of them speak no other language than English. It’s real easy to sit on your soapbox and say “he’s got to start speaking English” without being fluent in any language other than your native tongue. If English is your first language, you cannot relate to Silva’s plight even if you know multiple languages because you’ve never had to learn English as your second language and thus do not know the challenges involved. For all we know, English could be much tougher to master than speaking Spanish, French, or Russian.
And what’s with all of these so-called “experts” questioning Anderson Silva’s body-language? Since when did they become experts in translating movements and expressions? Have they not seen Anderson Silva fight before? When the man is throwing punches, elbows, knees, and kicks from the clinch, it looks like poetry in motion. However, at other times, the lanky middleweight doesn’t always look so coordinated and at times lookes like an awkward teenager still growing into his body.
The criticism of Silva has gotten so insane that some have even resorted to treating an act of respect — i.e. Silva’s decision to offer Cote a hand to get back up on his feet — as if he had directed an obscene gesture in the direction of Cote’s mother. How did we get to a point where we treat a gesture of sportsmanship as the ultimate insult? It comes off as nothing more than the Vampires feeling a little moody after not having their thirst for blood quenched. Oh wait, Silva did make Cote bleed from the forehead. But it wasn’t enough. It seems like Silva is being punished for no other reason than he didn’t send Cote out of the cage strapped to a stretcher. Shame on you Anderson Silva for not decapitating Patrick Cote!
The angry mob is even questioning Silva’s bow at the beginning of the fight. Someone that would question Silva’s body-language in that situation hasn’t so much as sparred with someone. Before you compete against someone in a combat sport, whether it be sparring or an actual fight, you often do not know how you’re going to be received by your opponent. Often you let your opponent dictate the terms in which the fight will be contested because no one teaches you how to react to your opponent before a fight. As such, you often leave such areas of uncertainty to your opponent. If he holds out his glove, you hold out your glove. If he extends his hand, you extend your hand. And if he bows as you’re about to go back to your corner, you might decide to bow at the last second and it might not come off as the most coordinated gesture in the history of mankind.
The reality is that Dana White has created a mythological monster in Anderson Silva. He’s created a fighter that is received as a loser if he falls short of finishing an opponent in the first round. He’s put Silva into a situation where winning is no longer good enough. Is it any wonder why the man is considering retiring at the age of 35?