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Some Thoughts On Anderson Silva

On January 31st Anderson “The Spider” Silva fought Nick Diaz as the main event of UFC 183. The fight was notable for being the first fight for Silva since suffering a horrific leg break against current Middleweight Champ Chris Weidman back in December 2013. Silva and Diaz was a much hyped event, but turned out to be far from either fighters greatest performance. With the exception of a few hilarious moments of typical Diaz clowning nothing about the fight was particularly memorable. It is not a fight that will go down in infamy… or at least it wouldn’t if Silva and Diaz passed their drug tests.

But they didn’t.

Diaz’s positive test was for marijuana. This is the third time in his career he has failed a drugs test for that reason. When it comes to marijuana use in sports, I find myself siding with Diaz and his fans and asking “So What?”. Nick’s inevitable suspension further cements his legacy as the crazy bad boy of the sport, and it was unlikely he was planning on fighting in the next twelve months (if ever again) anyway. Marijuana use doesn’t give Diaz any in cage advantages. It doesn’t boost his abilities. Other than perhaps explaining why Diaz constantly thinks he has won fights he clearly lost, it does nothing. Nick getting popped for weed tells us nothing we didn’t already know, and doesn’t change anything about the way we perceive him as a fighter.

Silva tested positive for substances that indicate the use of steroids and elevated testosterone. This changes everything.

My first thought was “Okay, he is a 39 year old man coming off a horrendous injury and he needed a little help to get back up to his best”. Not saying that makes it right, just that I understand it. But then you think back to what Silva himself said last October when he was condemning steroid users. His exact words were “When you use the steroids, you use them for a long time.” Those words, when looked at today, sound a little like a confession. What if it wasn’t a one time thing to help a former great get back on track, but was a constant thing that helped him become great in the first place? It is unlikely we will ever know, but with this one failed test there will now forever and always be an asterisk next to his name when talking about the Greatest Of All Time.

I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I really do. I find myself making excuses for him. Chris Leben, James Irvin, Nate Marquardt, Dan Henderson, Forrest Griffin, Chael Sonnen,Vitor Belfort, and Stephan Bonnar were all on something or other when Silva beat them, so if he was on something as well then it’s only fair… right? I don’t know. But then look at what he did to those guys. He destroyed them. If whatever he was on at the time (if anything) gave him that much of an advantage, why couldn’t he finish a stoned welterweight this time around? Silva hardly looked like “The Spider” of old which is making me think (hope) it was a one time thing. A desperate attempt to reclaim his prime.

If looked at from his perspective it becomes a sadder story. Silva had to know he’d be caught. The UFC has been clamping down on drug testing for a while now and is only getting stricter (unless you are Jon Jones, who just gets a slap on the wrist and then a pat on the head). He knew getting caught juicing would cast a shadow over his entire career. It will end him. Why risk it? It’s not like he was getting one last shot at the title. He was fighting someone a weight class below him that hadn’t won a fight since 2011. A win over Nick wouldn’t prove anything to anyone. Except maybe himself.

After that leg snapped back in 2013 and Silva was screaming in agony on the canvas it must have hit him that he was done. Just like it occurred to everyone else. But unlike everyone else, Silva said balls to that notion, and started training again. Then when he was training it must have hit him again. He didn’t have the same speed, the same strength, the same confidence. He was too old. He was done. But Silva still said no. So he sought out some illegal help. He took a course of action he knew would burn his legacy to the ground because fuck it. Anderson Silva wanted to get in that cage one last time and go out on his terms. He would decide when it ended, not some freak injury. “The Spider” had no interest in reclaiming his prime. No interest in preserving a legacy. He just wanted to see that cage door close and the crowd chant his name one last time, regardless of cost. Makes sense when you look at how he collapsed into tears after his hand was raised. That time it really was over. But at least, as far as Silva is concerned, it was him that ended it.

I’m speculating of course, but that feels closer to the truth. He wasn’t trying to come back, he was saying goodbye on his terms. But whatever his reasoning, whatever the truth is, the damage is unfortunately done. No matter what comes out going forward, there will always be that nagging feeling at the back of our minds when we talk about the unbelievable career of “The Spider”. In the space of a few days he has gone from the unquestioned G.O.A.T to a series of question marks. Whys and whens and maybes. Maybe he was the best ever. Maybe he was too good to be true.

I hope it was worth it Anderson.

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