(‘Sup, Anderson? Seriously. Photo courtesy of Cage Today.)
Mere moments after his bout at UFC 90 had ended, Anderson Silva started getting something he rarely has before: hate mail. I was sitting next to the administrator of Silva’s official website at the time, and his blackberry was suddenly abuzz with critical emails like these:
“You should be apologizing to everyone for the way you fought. While cote was trying to push the fight, all you were doing was trying to show off and not even putting in a effort to knock him out right away. Hollywood has changed you hasnt it.”
“That was ridiculous , was a fan . Now I never want to see you fight again.”
“Please relay to “the spider”, he is an arrogant prick. myself, along with many of my friends, were once great fans of him. after tonights disgusting display, i personally despise him. He was a fucking asshole. the disrespect he displayed to the fans and to cote throughout the fight was something I will never forget.”
The fight had barely ended and already fans were jumping off the Anderson Silva bandwagon by the dozens. The media wasn’t far behind, with Yahoo’s Kevin Iole proclaiming that Silva had “made a mockery of himself” in the fight.
What happened in the fight seems less important now than why it happened. What was Silva trying to accomplish, and what does it say about him? Everyone has their theories, but few are without glaring holes. As long as we’re all speculating as to the man’s motivations, we might as well sort through some of the prevailing ideas:
1. Silva was “protesting” the choice of Cote as an opponent
In order to believe this, you first have to believe that Silva didn’t want to fight Cote, which not only goes against earlier statements he made, but also against his well-known desire to fight as often as possible. Never has he suggested that he’s anything but satisfied with the way the UFC has handled him, so why would he suddenly decide to try and screw his employer? Unless he developed an entirely new personality overnight, it just doesn’t make much sense.
2. Silva was toying with Cote in order to demonstrate his own dominance
It’s one thing to want to show how good you are, but another to be mean-spirited about it. Silva has developed a reputation for destroying people quickly, but he’s never been known as much of a showboat. Could it be that Silva somehow decided that “clowning around” was the last frontier for him? I suppose it’s possible, but where’s the evidence? The wacky hand feints are something he’s used before to some effect, and bowing to an opponent or offering him a hand up is only disrespectful if you assume it was sarcastic. He’s never seemed like the type to get a kick out of embarrassing people, so I have a hard time buying this one.
3. Silva was carrying Cote in an attempt to give the fans a show
Silva’s last trip into the Octagon was so brief it’s just possible that he felt a misguided need to give the fans their money’s worth by making the fight longer rather than better. That’s a bad idea, no question. Even when they complain about paying $45 for a main event that’s over before they can finish their nachos, fans still love a decisive finish more than a protracted bout with limited action. It’s possible Silva didn’t realize that. If that’s the case, something tells me he realizes it now.
4. Silva was too cautious out of respect for Cote’s power
The one thing everyone agreed upon before this fight was that Cote had a puncher’s chance, but that was all. That would seem to make a defensive strategy — one that exploits openings without getting too careless or overeager — sound like a good idea. Say what you will, but Silva fought a defensively brilliant fight, taking almost no damage while still winning rounds. Maybe it’s the result of spending too much time around Lyoto Machida. Whatever you think of it, you can’t deny that Silva was controlling that fight. Cote’s injury robbed us of the chance to see whether Silva had a finish in him, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t a few minutes away from a knockout.
5. Silva had a bad night
If you have enough fights, eventually you’re bound to have a bad one. It could be that Silva just wasn’t on his game, for whatever reason. At this point the expectations are so high that anything less than a first-round knockout seems like a disappointment, which is how a bad night turns into hysteria from the fans and media. Maybe we should just cut him some slack.
Maybe it’s too much to ask for a guy to live up to the ‘world’s greatest fighter’ mantle, especially when he takes every opportunity to deny it. Maybe we’re jumping to conclusions to suggest that by simply dominating the fight without ending it in the first three minutes, Anderson Silva must have been jerking us all around. Maybe the guy is mortal after all, and maybe it’s our own fault for ever thinking anything different.