Every time an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) "super" fight is the talk of mixed martial arts (MMA) town, I always think of the Riddick Bowe vs. Lennox Lewis boxing match that never was, but could have been, the biggest bout of 1993.
Instead, Bowe ducked Lewis, and proceeded to get fat and disinterested, losing his title and, in the process, a huge payday disappeared. The same kind of waiting game killed the peaking appeal of Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao, whose endless dance around another for three years finally came to an end when Pacquiao was laid out by Juan Manuel Marquez.
Their trajectories are perfectly geared toward one another, right now (pending the recovery of Jones from the horrific toe injury he sustained last night in the UFC 159 main event against Chael Sonnen). The dynamic duo have so much in common in all the right ways: both have essentially cleaned out their divisions of interesting challengers, are prohibitive favorites against future challengers and each has such an overwhelming mastery of the game that their performances resemble an artist demonstrating his latest work, against the canvas of a haplessly overmatched foe.
It’s also fitting that Silva, the Middleweight champion, move up to 205 pounds now and take on Jones because it would offer a brilliantly perfect way for "The Spider" to ride off into the sunset: By beating the greatest Light Heavyweight the game has seen as a nice coda to a brilliant career despite the new "10-fight contract extension."
And if Jones wins, there’s no shame in Silva taking the first loss of his stellar UFC career. It wouldn’t diminish his legacy one bit, and would, in fact, fittingly pass the torch he’s carried, once and for all, to "Bones," who at a mere 25 has a huge horizon in front of him.
With improvement each fight, he’s inevitably going to move to Heavyweight, and that in itself would be a fascinating chapter. But, a battle with Silva would be one hell of a way to finish his campaign at 205 pounds. It’d also be a bout that would transcend the hardcore fan base and make the lightning-rod jump to casual sports fans, not just people who watch MMA.
There’s an old story I read somewhere about a newspaper reporter in 1980, visiting his aged mother in Jerusalem. She asked him "So who’s going to win? Leonard or Duran?" He realized it was a big fight he had to cover if his mom had heard of it and had serious interest in the outcome.
Similarly, Jon Jones vs. Anderson Silva would be the biggest thing to ever happen to MMA, and yet with each outing, there are risks. Broken toes. Blown knees. Freak injuries. Lighting in a bottle. Sure, it would entirely scuttle the bout if one of them lost on a fluke happenstance like that, but the best time to serve the dish is when it’s perfectly cooked.
Silva has the quite-capable Chris Weidman lined up for UFC 162 on July 2, 2013. However, all things considered -- like phone calls to White immediately after events -- I expect he’ll take care of business in Silva-like fashion because he always does. That should give "Bones" some time to heal that terrible toe of his, and at that point, the UFC needs to make some serious overtures toward both men, who’ve indicated they’re not interested in the fight.
It may take a lot of money, but that’s perfectly fine, because this bout is worth a lot of money. Truckloads of it. You’d pay $75 to see it, and not even look twice at the under card worried if you were gonna get your money’s worth.
UFC has its work cut out for itself. Time will tell if Jon Jones vs. Anderson Silva becomes the dream fight that turns into reality, or yet another footnote of what could have been, undone by circumstance and playing the odds that come with the waiting game.
The biggest bout of 2013 that never was, but could have been.
Jason Probst can be reached at www.twitter.com/jasonprobst