After a Career Spanning Pride and the UFC, Should Wanderlei Silva Retire?

July 16, 2011

Wanderlei Silva has had one of the most storied careers in mixed martial arts history. He held the Pride Fighting Championships middleweight title from 2001 to 2007. He won the 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix. He held the top ranking in the 205-pound division for years, longer than any other fighter.

Wanderlei Silva and Chris Leben

Known for his aggressive Muay Thai style that became indicative of the Chute Boxe Academy in Brazil, Silva represented his nickname, “The Axe Murderer,” well. Twenty-three of his 33 wins have come by way of knockout.

His glory days are certainly well behind him. “The Axe Murderer” has gone 3-6 over the last five years with four of those six losses ending with him unconscious on the canvas.

After recently suffering a knockout loss to Chris Leben at UFC 132 on July 2, many have suggested it’s time for Silva to hang up his gloves and retire from fighting.

“People love him so much because of the way he fights and his style and the type of person he is, but it’s probably the end of the road for Wanderlei,” said UFC president Dana White during the event’s post-fight press conference.

Wanderlei Silva at UFC 102

Wanderlei Silva at UFC 102

“The guy has nothing left to prove. He’s a warrior. People love him all over the world and I just don’t want to see that happen to him anymore,” added White about the 35-year-old fighter.

Of course, the decision to retire or to continue to compete ultimately is up to the athlete in question, and Silva will have to make that choice on his own. But are the Silva critics jumping the gun on calling for his retirement?

Silva has been knocked out, or technically knocked out, six times in his career. Eight years went by from him being knocked out by Vitor Belfort in 1998 to the high-kick knockout loss to Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in the 2006 Pride Openweight Grand Prix.

In his next outing, he was put to sleep by Dan Henderson. He then had a three-round war with Chuck Liddell at UFC 79, losing by decision. Silva overwhelmed Keith Jardine at UFC 84 in true Wanderlei fashion, finishing him in just 36 seconds.

At UFC 92, Silva was pitted against his former Pride rival and former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson for a third time. Silva defeated Jackson in their two previous meetings, but Jackson’s hand would be raised that night, winning by knockout.

Following the loss to Jackson, Silva began to make the transition to the 185-pound division, accepting a catch-weight fight against former middleweight champion Rich Franklin at UFC 99. Silva came up short, losing by decision, but it was a competitive fight.

In his official middleweight debut, Silva defeated Michael Bisping, currently ranked in the top five in the middleweight division. Then came the loss to Leben.

“I’d like to sit down, talk to him and Chuck Liddell him into it,” commented White at the UFC 132 post-fight press conference. But Silva’s current situation is nothing like what Liddell’s was.

Wanderlei Silva applying the guillotine on Michael Bisping

Wanderlei Silva applying the guillotine on Michael Bisping

A fighters’ safety is most important, and Liddell was knocked out three fights in a row. Silva has suffered one knockout in his last three outings.

From a medical standpoint, there is a real health concern with the recent studies on how concussions effect the quality of life for contact sports athletes when their days of competition are done. Unfortunately, the long-term effects of mixed martial arts on fighters’ brains won’t be known for years to come. Silva has been through a few epic wars and has taken big shots. No one can dispute that, but is it to the point that he should retire?

From a business standpoint, Silva is still a draw. He can still sell pay-per-views and put fans in the seats.

Silva is 1-1 as a middleweight. Yes, he was viciously knocked out by Leben, who is known for his punching power and ability to end fights with a single punch.

He was knocked out by “Cro Cop” in a heavyweight fight. He was knocked out by “Rampage,” who possesses some of the most devastating counter hooks in the business. Dan Henderson put him down with a winging left hand and Leben did finish him quickly, but all of his knockout loses have come to fighters known for their knockout ability.

That’s the game Wanderlei Silva plays. Someone is likely going to sleep when he steps in the cage, and that’s exactly why he’s so loved.

It is true, Wanderlei Silva has nothing left to prove in the sport, except maybe to himself. I think he’s more than earned the opportunity to see for himself if he’s a viable contender in the middleweight division.

He is 1-1 against top ten ranked 185-pounders. This is not a Chuck Liddell situation.

What do you think? Is Wanderlei Silva done or should he continue on in the Octagon?

Weigh in with a thought of your own in the comments section below.

Jeff Cain is a contributing writer for
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