Anderson Silva has never been an imposing figure. For someone who has done as much as he has in combat sports, you would expect to see a 6-foot-6 frame, shoulders unable to fit through a doorway and, at the very least, the occasional scowl.
But the former UFC middleweight champion smiles too much for that, talks too softly, and almost lulls opponents into a sense of complacency. Wednesday’s UFC 208 media day was no exception, as he ended the traditional face-off with his opponent, Derek Brunson, not with a push or some harsh words, but a hug.
“This fight is one more challenge in my personal life,” Silva said. “Derek Brunson is a great fighter, he's a young guy and a good challenge for me. I'm very happy because I love my job, fighting is my life and I'll just do my best and give my best energy for my fans.”
It’s an understandable approach. At 41 years old, Silva has done it all in the Octagon, and if he walks away from the sport tomorrow, a Hall of Fame nod is a mere formality. But after a stretch in which he is winless since defeating Stephan Bonnar in October 2012, getting his hand raised is important – not for his professional legacy, but his personal one.
So while time will slow reflexes and reduce the number of opportunities any fighter receives, what Silva still has is a competitive streak second to none. And that was never more evident than last July, when he took a UFC 200 fight with light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier on two days’ notice.
That’s not a typo.
“The whole team was so scared because we had no idea what could happen,” said Josuel Distak, a longtime friend and coach, of Silva’s decision. “But like we say, Anderson doesn't need to prove anything to anybody. Anderson passed through a lot of victories, a lot of losses, he broke his leg inside the Octagon, and he's a martial arts fighter.”
Silva lost a decision to Cormier that night in Las Vegas, but in defeat, he may have made even more fans. On Saturday, win or lose, he will hear that roar of the crowd once more. And sometimes, that’s more enough reason to keep fighting.
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