Photo by Esther Lin
There's not much that 37-year old UFC Middleweight champion Anderson Silva has not accomplished over the course of his 15-year career. After smoking Stephan Bonnar at UFC 153 in Rio, what's next for 'The Spider?'
"Legacy" is a funny word.
Not funny in a humorous way, but funny from the perspective that it brings about a reaction in people that can be extremely polarizing. Multiply that polarization by 1,000 when it comes to the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) and its pundits and fans.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva has done his fair share of polarizing. It shouldn't be the case. It honestly should be an "open and shut case" that he's the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T.), but greatness always attracts haters.
Additionally, "The Spider" hasn't helped himself in some ways. With his occasional brash in the cage antics, his seeming unwillingness to fight certain opponents at times, and just an overall demeanor that can be characterized as cocky, there are fans who have been repelled by Silva, despite the amazing nature of what he's able to do inside the Octagon.
And that's the reason we're always talking about his legacy.
Truth be told, if you're a fighter, and we're even talking about your legacy, you've probably accomplished some great things in your career.
I mean, come on. Phil Baroni has been around just about as long as Silva, and you don't hear many people talking about "The New York Bad Ass'" legacy. (No offense, Phil.)
After beating Light Heavyweight Stephan Bonnar in a lopsided first round knockout special at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last night (Oct. 13, 2012), it's time to stand around the water cooler, once again, and speculate what might be next for Silva.
But, this isn't just another typical "what's next" article. That's because there's so much at stake. It's not just the next title shot or step along the way.
At 37 years old, Silva is nearing the end of his career. He has two fights left on his contract. Who knows if he'll fight past that or not. What we do know is that he doesn't need to. He could retire today and you'd have a hard time arguing there's ever been a greater MMA fighter that has lived and fought inside the ring or cage.
It matters who he fights next. We might only get to see it two more times. It's like being in the critical care unit with your grandpa when he's on his deathbed. Do you wanna hear him talk about how his bowels have been acting up lately? Or do you wanna hear one of his war stories?
You know which one you'd choose.
But, what does that have to do with Silva? Everything.
UFC President Dana White has made it clear that he wants to see Silva fight UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones. It's an intention he's repeated with greater passion in recent days, and when you listen to White talk, you really do get the feeling that he's close to sitting down with both great fighters and putting the squeeze on to get them into the cage together.
As great a showman and promoter as he is, he's got to see the writing on the wall and realize that there's not much time left to put this "super fight" together. He knows the urgency, and he also realizes it's the fight that most MMA fans want to see.
However, you've also got the other potential "super fight" between Silva and Georges St. Pierre, which is contingent upon "Rush" defeating Carlos Condit at UFC 154 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Nov. 17, 2012.
But, first of all, it's not even close to foregone conclusion some people want to make it out to be that St. Pierre is going to beat Condit. Second, even though Silva has stated that it's the fight he wants, and "Rush" has essentially said the same, it's just second best.
Personally, I love the idea of Jones fighting Silva, and I think it needs to happen as soon as possible. The timing will never be better.
Silva says he doesn't want to move up because he'd be getting in the way of some of his friends who have 205-pound title aspirations. That's admirable, but I don't see why it needs to be a title fight. In fact, I'd argue it absolutely shouldn't be.
Make it a 200-pound catchweight fight or a 205-pound non-title bout. I think it's the only way to go. Plus, it gives the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions some time to suss things out.
Let Dan Henderson fight Lyoto Machida. Throw Glover Teixeira in there with whoever is foolish enough to fight him next. Alexander Gustafsson and Mauricio Rua can still get their groove on and work out their differences. Then, when it's all said and done, stand back from the rubble and take a look at who really deserves to go next. Because, right now, none of those guys have done enough to merit a title shot versus Jones tomorrow.
In the middleweight division, you've got a similar scenario. Chris Weidman's gonna fight Tim Boetsch. Alan Belcher will take on Yushin Okami. Michael Bisping can fight Vitor Belfort or whoever else the UFC decides to throw at him. Hector Lombard will square off against Rousimar Palhares.
Essentially, you've got both a light heavyweight and middleweight tournament going on right now. I say let them both play out and see what comes of it all.
In the meantime, a non-title "super-fight" between Silva and Jones makes all the sense in the world.
And don't tell me that it wouldn't be fair for either fighter to keep their title if they were to lose that fight. Silva is a far greater challenge than anyone "Bones" will face in his division, and if Jones were to lose, I have trouble believing that means he's still not better than the rest of the bunch of at 205 pounds. Plus, what's to say Silva doesn't retire after a win like that? I just think it's a messy scenario that nobody wants.
You might disagree with me vehemently on the non-title issue, and I'm open to that discussion, but we can both agree that taking that off the table removes a major obstacle to getting this fight done, and everyone wins if that happens.
So, that's where I weigh in. I don't want to see Silva fight Weidman next. I'm not hyped about seeing him fight "GSP." I want to see him fight Jon Jones at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas, in what could shape up to be the biggest fight in MMA history.
You know you want it, too.