There comes a point in every fighters life when they are forced to choose whether or not they can continue to face the pain..
"Nobody’s indestructible…." Words uttered recently by Dana White at the UFC on Fox 10 media scrum. They carry the weight of truth. His organisation, the UFC, is filled with mortal men and women who face up to human frailty every time they step into the gym or Octagon. Two of the greatest fighters the sport of MMA has ever known, Georges St Pierre and Anderson Silva are currently facing up to their own mortality. The question is will they choose fight life?
Anderson Silva is a man who is currently physically reconstructing himself having been quite literally broken in half by Chris Weidman’s ‘destruction’ technique. He is rebuilding. As the calcium crystals in his leg bind and mend his broken bones, he is already expressing the desire to fight again at the top level. He said to his coach Pedro Rizzo in the immediate aftermath, ‘I will be back, master. I will be back.." He seems to have an innate urge to fight. It’s his reason to be. His psychological will to do battle fizzes and crackles like the freshly lit tip of a length of gasoline-drenched detonation cord. Just wait for the boom…
First he’ll box. For mere mortal like us, stepping into the squared circle and standing against Roy Jones Jr would be the equivalent of walking into a baseball pitching machine face first with our hands tied behind our backs. But for Anderson it’s a stop on the journey back to full MMA recovery. It would put his fierce hands, his sublime body movement and his super fight brain up again the brutal best, but it would just ease back on the punishment his legs would be taking. For now at least….
GSP by contrast, seems to have relinquished his role as champ and demurs to talk about any definite fight future. He appears to be releasing all the pressures that have amassed over the last 11 years, and now be publicly deconstructing and dismantling the fighter that ‘was’. Having arrived at, performed in and personified the peerless professional in all of his fights, now he has stopped ‘being’ it seems the time to vent every stress and negative thought that has ever built up and been sublimated for the good of the cause.
Some might say that a fighter who has faced the pressure he has, and conducted himself in the manner he’s done would almost inevitably have stored up toxic energy that needs to be released safely before he or she self-combusts like others before them in an orgy of drink, drugs or self-destructive behaviour. GSP’s exterior at least has always been android-like perfection. During his 9 title defences, he’s successfully buried, squashed and hidden from public view any anguish, self-doubt, fear or psychological pain. Negative feelings like that are almost inevitable in such a tough sport, just look at the bodies that have amassed around it’s fringes. He has pushed any demons, along with their sulphur tipped tridents, down deep within the recesses of his soul, and so suppressed every single thought, and feeling that could have tarnished, or worse, started a micro-fault line through the cyborg-like structure of the perfect fighter. That is, until now.
The damn seems to have broken with his abdication speech. His gentle quasi-retirement statement gave way to the release of all that pent-up energy. In his own classy, dignified way, he has slowly started exploding. He’s now disintegrating in sublime slow-motion, with fragments of shrapnel in the form of uncharacteristic deviation from the company line and indelicate comments oh-so gently flying out from the centre of the blast site. The detonation point itself seems to have been the aftermath of his clash with Johny Hendricks, when inadvertently Dana may have pulled the pin with his frank, but fair, throwaway remarks on the fight. But it had to happen. Perfection can only be maintained for so long. Now the training has stopped, and Miami party nights have run into the early mornings as his kit-bag sits on the side untouched. The question is; has he psychologically passed the point of no return to the Octagon? Ask any medic and they will tell you bones are predictable, they mend according to a biological timetable, but minds are another matter…
If GSP appears to be embracing his fight mortality, the opposite is true for Anderson. Whilst some commentators write him off because of the two losses, or draw attention to his age what we forget, at our peril, is that he has nitro glycerine in his DNA. His career has been brutal. In his time he has put more dents in people than a mob enforcer on a bad night in a casino alley. Fighting and delivering the hurt is what he was put on this earth to do. It’s what he will do again. Pain is his business. It defines him.
Arguably unlike like GSP he has never stopped being a fighter. In the hours that followed his horrific dispatch by Chris Weidman his hospital bed served as a command and control centre where plans for retaliatory attacks were already being laid down. His rehab gym has doubled as an armoury wherein he has started to measure out the explosive fight compounds and configure the devastating combat technologies he needs to build and prime the biggest fight bomb the UFC has ever seen. His warrior frame continues to be packed ever more tightly with fight explosive as each day passes. Wait and see. When we have been lulled into a false sense of fight security by GSP’s party music, Spiders bomb will rip through the frontal lobes of our fight brains once more, and lodge beautiful visual splinters of his sublime smashing talent in our ever-grateful memory banks.
So as they leave the UFC Hurt Locker-room it looks like GSP is destined to turn right, heading out of the building into the world of celebrity, films, late nights, parties and pleasures so long denied, whilst Anderson will turn left and head down the long tunnel into the auditorium filled with screaming noise and a world of pain…