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RIO DE JANEIRO – Anderson Silva has a few fights left on his UFC contract – three or four, he said, though he couldn’t say for sure – and he intends to complete them. But speaking to reporters in Rio de Janeiro about his UFC 237 homecoming against Jared...
RIO DE JANEIRO – Anderson Silva has a few fights left on his UFC contract – three or four, he said, though he couldn’t say for sure – and he intends to complete them.
But speaking to reporters in Rio de Janeiro about his UFC 237 homecoming against Jared Cannonier, Silva acknowledged the end of his career is approaching.
The former middleweight champion, who turned 44 this month, doesn’t rule out a new stab at the title in this final stretch. “Anything is possible,” Silva said, and “every fighter who’s in the UFC thinks about the title.” It was, after all, with the title in mind that Silva agreed to take on Israel Adesanya back in February.
But after defending the belt 10 times throughout an almost seven-year long reign, Silva says he’s “absolutely” comfortable with the idea of retiring without touching UFC gold again.
“I never put something in my mind like, ‘Oh I need to fight again for the belt,’” Silva told reporters, including MMA Junkie, in English. “No. That’s a part in my life I passed. But I continue to fight. But I don’t know – maybe I have a new opportunity to fight for the belt. I don’t know.
“But I’m not putting my whole energy like, ‘Oh, I need to get back to fight for the title.’ No. That’s the (second) point for me, the first point is just continue to fight, continue to put my heart in the sport, then maybe I have a chance to fight for the belt again.”
Silva (34-8 MMA, 17-5 UFC) meets Cannonier (11-4 MMA, 4-4 UFC) on May 11 at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro. The main card of UFC 237 airs on pay-per-view, following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+.
Silva comes into the match off the applauded, but unsuccessful effort against Adesanya at UFC 234. Cannonier, in turn, comes off a knockout win over former WSOF champion David Branch this past November. The bout was Cannonier’s first at middleweight after UFC fights at both the 205-pound and heavyweight divisions.
Despite Cannonier’s momentum, it’s fair to say his name isn’t quite as high-profile as the ones that Silva had been requesting – namely, fellow ex-UFC-champ Conor McGregor and former opponent Nick Diaz. So what led the former champion to say yes?
Speaking to reporters earlier, in the Portuguese portion of the interview, Silva said it was a decision made after “months of negotiation” with UFC president Dana White, motivated by both business and something that he offer refers to as “the challenge.”
Later asked about what that challenge is, specifically, Silva said he sees Cannonier as a “very strong” opponent, who’s had “a lot of experience in this sport.” But, also, Silva also says there’s more to it than the name on the contract.
“Everybody talk about ‘fight this guy or this guy,’ but for me I think it’s more important you make something special for the fans,” Silva said. “In my opinion and my position now I’m trying to do something very special for my fans. When I fight Israel (Adesanya) everybody talk about, ‘Why you fight him? Why you take the fight?’ Because it’s a good challenge for myself, for my mind.”
Asked directly how many fights he has left on his current UFC contract, Silva said he’d have to check, but that it’s either three or four, probably four.
“I feel good – I intend to do all of them,” Silva said, before adding with a laugh. “For the joy of some and sadness of others, I intend to keep bothering people.”
Whether they will involve a title shot or not is not in the forefront of Silva’s mind at the moment. But despite his recent 1-5 run and the scenario atop the 185-pound division, involving veterans like Yoel Romero and up-and-comers like Paulo Costa, Silva doesn’t think it’s entirely out of the picture.
“I think everyone has their space,” Silva said. “What happens a lot is – everyone has their space, but everyone has created a different legacy in this sport. They’re just coming in. Romero not so much, but ‘Borrachinha’ (Costa) and many others, they’re coming in. They don’t understand that there’s a business behind all of this.
“So when it comes time to choose someone to fight who’ll really make a difference, they’re going to pick the one who sells more. Regardless of whether the guy’s last in the rankings, it’s the guy who sells more against the guy who’s first in the rankings. This rankings thing doesn’t come into play that much when it comes to business, and that’s what some athletes need to understand.”
To hear more from Silva, check out the video above.
When Dana White says he’s going to unveil “the future of fighting” soon, what could that possibly mean? And Ronda Rousey doesn’t think we “deserve” to hear her opinion on her legacy in MMA. So what conclusion should we arrive at on our own? That and other pressing questions...
When Dana White says he’s going to unveil “the future of fighting” soon, what could that possibly mean? And Ronda Rousey doesn’t think we “deserve” to hear her opinion on her legacy in MMA. So what conclusion should we arrive at on our own?
That and other pressing questions in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.
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You know how some people say that the best approach is to under promise and over deliver? Dana White typically prefers to do the opposite. He can’t help himself. Maybe it’s the fight promoter in him. The man loves a big build-up, even when he’d be better off keeping expectations manageable so as to avoid making the final product seem disappointing by comparison.
The truth is that “the future of fighting” probably looks a lot like its past. In the basic, fundamental ways, the combat sports world has changed very little since the bare-knuckle days. Whatever developments the UFC has in store might be a big deal to the company itself, but they will almost certainly not change any significant aspects of the nature of combat sports.
And if you’re the UFC, why would you even want to alter the future of fighting? As White keeps telling us, the company is monstrously successful. You don’t go looking for ways to change the game if you’re already winning.
As you point out, attempts at massive change are typically the province of the little guys, the companies that are just starting out and desperate for a unique selling proposition of their own. Even if it’s a terrible idea, you have to get our attention somehow.
For established giants like the UFC, the only positive change is to exert even more control over even more areas of combat sports, which is what I expect this “unveiling” to amount to in the end.
My hope is that Max Holloway will return to his division and focus on reminding us that while he’s a very good lightweight, he is the absolute best featherweight.
The pound-for-pound stuff, it’s a made-up thing anyway. It’s this weird hypothetical conversation that we can’t seem to stop having. It’s not something I’d want to see Holloway chase at the expense of what could very well turn out to be a dominant title reign at 145 pounds. Go beat up some featherweights, Max. See if that doesn’t make you feel better.
The best way to think of Ronda Rousey’s legacy in MMA is to focus only on what she did and ignore virtually all of what she said. Or maybe that’s just the kindest way to think about it.
Rousey has often been a poor spokesperson for herself. We know this. We saw it in action often. While she undeniably did a ton for women’s MMA, she didn’t always sound like she cared about any women in MMA other than Ronda Rousey.
Still, I don’t see how anyone could deny that Rousey is the single most important female fighter in the history of MMA to date. She pried open the doors of the UFC. She proved that women could headline blockbuster events. She laid the foundation for everything that women’s MMA has since become, even if she herself benefitted from a foundation laid down by others (which is still too often ignored in the ongoing Rousey myth-building).
But whatever we may think of Rousey the person, we have to give Rousey the fighter credit. Was she the best women’s fighter ever? No, clearly not. But did she shatter the sport’s biggest glass ceiling? Absolutely. And that, more than anything, is what she’ll be remembered for in MMA.
I don’t get this one either, and not solely for that reason. Israel Adesanya just won the interim middleweight title. That means he has to face actual champion Robert Whittaker next, and “Bobby Knuckles” is a handful for absolutely anybody.
Will Adesanya beat him? I seriously doubt it, at least if Whittaker is healthy. And even if Adesanya does win, we might need to see him defend that title once or twice before we start talking about him moving up in weight.
Meanwhile, Jon Jones has more interesting future possibilities at heavyweight, assuming he can stay out of his own way that long. He gains nothing by beating up smaller fighters. What fans would really like to see him do is take on someone bigger.
Point is, just because two fighters from different weight classes start sniping at each other on social media, it doesn’t mean we need to jump on it like it’s the most pressing issue of our times. It’s not. It’s a dumb thing between two fighters who are probably separated by at least 40 pounds on most days. We ought to be capable of just letting that one go.
When it comes to international expansion, the UFC is a like McDonald’s. It knows one way to do this, and it will do it more or less the same whether the event is in Sao Paulo or St. Petersburg.
The formula is pretty simple: You get some fighters from the region you’re visiting, put at least a few of them in advantageous match-ups so the crowd can get hyped when they win, then make sure Bruce Buffer knows just enough of the language to do his usual spiel in Russian or whatever, and boom, there you are.
The appeal of this is that, like McDonald’s, you know what you’re getting regardless of where you are. It’s also efficient. The UFC can put up its tent, do its thing, then move on the next city without ever having to sweat the details of trying too hard to tailor the product to the local audience. The machine rolls on.
Is that underwhelming for a Russian MMA crowd that’s used to a lot more pageantry? Maybe. But the brand name is what’s doing the bulk of work in this sales pitch. The UFC goes to Russia seldom enough that, if you’re a fight fan there, you probably want to buy your ticket and see the show while you can. Even if there’s a noticeable lack of giant spiders and dance routines.
Ben Fowlkes is MMA Junkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMA Junkie.
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