It was Anderson Silva’s time to face the music… again.
He had terrorized the middleweight division since joining the UFC in late 2006, but for the second time in his career, his performance raised more questions than it answered.
The day was supposed to put him on the Mt. Olympus of MMA fighters. Instead, it was a botched sparring session with Thales Leites in
front of 20,000-plus fans. Silva wanted up, Leites wanted down, and they couldn’t come to an agreement.
Was Silva bored? Unchallenged? Did he, as one reporter questioned, have a mental or emotional block? What kept him from the kill?
Sitting at the press table afterwards, the champion appeared to space out, his chin resting on his hands. UFC president Dana White waved his fingers in front of him. Silva looked at the reporter quizzically.
“I don’t understand the question,” he said through translator Ed Soares.
In an uncharacteristic outburst, Chuck Liddell sat forward and stepped to Silva’s aid.
“Where did you get that?” he spat. “Every time he tried to throw a punch at him, the guy threw a punch at the air – the guy fell on his back. Seriously, where did you get that? He was attacking him the whole time.”
The ex-champ sat back, cursing under his breath.
“It’s a frustrating fight for a striker when every time you go to hit him he falls to his back,” Liddell continued after a tense beat. “Is really hard for you to do anything, so what do you want? He was going after him and attacking him.”
Even Soares stepped out of his role.
“It takes two people to fight, man,” he chimed. “It’s not like one guy shows up to fight. I mean, lets go to the next question.”
But there was really no other question to ask: who did Silva feel he was fighting for?
According to him, he had done what he wanted to do– gone the distance, won the fight– and had emerged without a scratch, like he’d just come from a Tae Bo class.
When the fight was done, he dropped to the canvas in joy and scaled the cage. His celebration was drowned out by the crowd’s boos.
“I don’t know if it’s that people don’t understand my style of fighting, but I go out there to train to be efficient and have a perfect fight,” he said. “Not every fight is going to be a knockout, not every fight is going to be some spectacular finish. What I trained to do I executed in there.”
The champ had given a similar explanation after his last performance against Patrick Cote. Silva toyed with him, waiting to unleash in
later rounds, until Cote injured his knee in the third.
This time, White wasn’t buying.
“I’m personally unhappy with the whole fight, period,” he proclaimed. “I did not like the fight at all. Period. On either side.”
The UFC president admitted his champion might be a victim of his own success.
“I don’t think opponents don’t want to engage Anderson Silva,” he said. “I think they have a game plan when they go in there and they
start getting kicked and hit. You see when this guy does kick and punch, guys spin around when he leg kicks them. He’s powerful, he’s fast, he’s elusive. He has all the tools, when he lets them go, people fall down.”
Later, White said he would sit down with Silva and figure out what the next step was. A superfight with Georges St. Pierre was one scenario, while Silva and others welcomed a step up in weight. A lot of things were still up in the air.
“Everybody’s chanting GSP,” White continued. “GSP has probably the toughest fight of his career coming up. Believe me, GSP fans and crazy Canadians – do not overlook Thiago Alves. This guy is mean and nasty. Georges St. Pierre can’t start looking at Anderson Silva until he gets past Thiago Alves.
“I honestly think Anderson Silva needs to challenge himself a little more. Maybe we need to do another fight at 205. Maybe we go to 205 to somebody who poses a serious threat to him.”
On one hand, Silva felt he had nothing to be ashamed of, as with the Cote fight. But that nagging part of his job– pleasing his audience– might need to be addressed.
“Basically, I’m comfortable with people’s opinions,” he said. “People have a right to their own opinion, but when I go out there, everything that I do in training, I feel that I executed in the fight. My game plan, I wanted to go into the later rounds with Thales. I was unable to finish. Sometimes I’m able to finish guys; sometimes I’m not able to. But I felt it proved to everybody that I can go five rounds, and I’m in good shape.”
But in the future, he’ll need to prove his killer instinct to the boss once again.
“I haven’t really thought about what I want next, but it looks like Dana has got something that he’s planning for me,” he said. “So I want to go back to Brazil and train, and Dana, I’m sorry, next time I’ll do better.”