(Photo courtesy of MMA Weekly.)
About two weeks before Thiago Silva‘s UFC 108 showdown with Rashad Evans, rumors began popping up that Silva had suffered an ankle injury in training, and the UFC was paying him extra money to stay on the cursed card and save the main event. Silva’s manager, Alex Davis, immediately set the story straight with MMA Junkie, saying "That report is completely false. Thiago is 100 percent and he’s busy preparing for this fight. Not only has the UFC not paid any extra money for Thiago to fight through an injury, but to the contrary, in my 10 years of dealing with the UFC, (matchmaker) Joe Silva and the staff have always said it’s better to pull out of a fight if you’re hurt rather than lose a fight because you’re injured."
But now that Silva lost his fight, Davis has come back to say that "100 percent" might have been overstating the case:
"The rumor came out that it was an ankle injury," Davis said. "Actually, it was not an ankle injury; it was a back injury. What happened is that Thiago had a choice. His back was hurt, and he could not wrestle. He could not do takedown defense. He could not practice the exact thing that he needed most against Rashad. But we know the problems with the UFC. We could see everything that was happening, and we made the decision to take this fight and stay with it regardless of the fact that he wasn’t able to come in in top shape for that kind of fight."
"American Top Team is a big team," Davis said. "You’ve got all these people around there, and all of a sudden you see Thiago Silva not taking part in normal practice. It gets out. I think that’s pretty normal. (But) I’m not going to go and give (Evans’ coach) Greg Jackson the advantage of knowing that my guy isn’t in top shape. I’m not going to leave him comfortable…
"Personally, due to the difference in the level of Rashad’s wrestling, I don’t think that in the takedown department, [being at 100 percent] would have made that much of a difference," Davis said. "People don’t care, really, but the truth is the truth. This kid came in and he wasn’t in top shape because of an injury, and he still took a very tough fight. He went at it, and he survived for those two rounds."
Of course, this raises the familiar rebuttal that no fighter is ever 100% when they step into the cage. When you lose a fight, those nagging injuries can be an easy scapegoat for why things didn’t go your way, and if you’re healthy enough to go three rounds with Rashad Evans while appearing perfectly normal to the outside observer, you’re probably healthy enough not to have your manager make excuses after the fight. Would a few more sessions of takedown defense practice have won Silva the fight on Saturday? Probably not. A killer instinct in round three might have helped, though. As it so happens, Davis has an explanation for that, too:
"The whole time, we were telling him to be patient with Rashad – not try to go in on Rashad and attack Rashad, which would have given Rashad the takedown opportunities," Davis said. "What happened there is the moment that he shouldn’t have been cautious, he listened to us, and he stayed cautious. He was worried that he would go in for the knockout too hungrily and got countered with that overhand of Rashad’s. That was what went through Thiago’s head at that moment…I think Thiago is still developing a lot as a fighter. He used to be a very instinctive fighter. Now he’s starting to be more of a conscious fighter…For us that were outside the fight, we knew that if [Silva] went in there for the kill, he probably would have gotten it," Davis said. "But it’s not easy when you’re inside there."