Anderson Silva and his legacy have come under serious question this week, and it hasn’t been pretty. A failed UFC 183 drug test brought about a one-year ban retroactive to January 31st 2015, a $380,000 purse fine, a change of his original decision victory to a ‘No-Contest’ and a question that few ever expected to ask of one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time; what the heck happened to Anderson Silva? Further to that, the NAC (Nevada Athletic Commission) raised many pertinent points that were not easy for ‘The Spider’ and his seemingly bewildered legal team yesterday (August 13., 2015).
We’ll go over these and many more red herrings throughout this piece, as we delve in to the critical timeline of Anderson Silva‘s illustrious rise to dominance, and his current side step in to the shadows of tribulation…..
We should start at the point that Silva truly began to gain recognition as the consensus P4P best UFC fighter, and one of the GOATs in MMA; UFC 101, where a rampant ‘Spider’ displayed cat-like reflexes while avoiding all offense that Forrest Griffin could offer, and putting his lights out with laser-accurate punches. The Brazilian legend had just broken the record for most consecutive UFC wins at the time (9 vs Thales Leites UFC 97), he’d also unified the Pride FC welterweight strap by defeating fellow great Dan Henderson at UFC 82, and the fight at light-heavyweight with Griffin came due to a lack of contenders in the cleaned out 185-pound category.
The precursor to this milestone was almost the mirror image of what followed in Silva’s fight story, as he cemented his name in the MMA history books in his next six fights.
Mockery against Maia
Following the Griffin victory, Silva stepped back down to middleweight to defend his strap, taking on Demian Maia at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi. The result was a one-sided, rather unnecessary and incredibly frustrating decision win for Silva. He humiliated his fellow Brazilian, infuriating the fans in attendance and those who had paid good money to the UFC to watch a fight, as he danced and clowned in the fashion he would soon become synonymous with.
We’d seen flashes of this sort of behaviour many times in the past, see Silva vs. Leites, but never had his antics got this exaggerated in one fight. A bizarre post-fight interview with ‘The Spider’ revealed he felt disrespected by Maia in the lead up to the fight, and so wanted to make him suffer throughout the fight. There was legitimate outrage among the MMA community regarding the UFC 112 main event, but it was all soon forgotten about.
Oddly enough, it was the same kind of in-fight madness that eventually helped dethrone Silva down the line, but we’ll discuss that later. The win over Maia broke the record of the time for most consecutive title defenses (6), but it was largely un-praised due to the controversial nature of the bout.
Feud and victory over Chael Sonnen
Anderson Silva’s beef with Chael Sonnen was insane, it’s as simple as that. The two gelled perfectly in terms of their pre-fight hype; Silva felt disrespected by Sonnen’s loud-mouth slander, and vowed to punish him quickly at UFC 117, ‘The American Gangster’ was only too happy to oblige and added fuel to the fire with anti-Brazilian comments and jives. The fight probably couldn’t have got any better in the build up stages, and when the octagon door closed behind the two men, an all-time great encounter was born.
Sonnen dominated the early goings, even dropping Silva at one point, and landed ruthless ground and pound through the entire fight. Undoubtedly ahead on the scorecards going in to round five, Sonnen once again planted ‘The Spider’ on his back, but momentarily let his guard down and came out on the wrong end of arguably one of the greatest comebacks ever. Silva locked on a tight triangle/armbar, forcing his bewildered foe to tap and setting the wheels once again in motion for his legendary status to grow exponentially.
Belfort through Bonnar
Silva faced another Brazilian legend in the form of venomous knockout artist Vitor Belfort at UFC 126, and it was yet another highlight reel finish for the champ. At 3:25 of round one, Silva pulls out the most clinically precise front kick you’ve ever seen, and it lands flush on the chin of ‘The Phenom’. The fight was over the moment that beautiful strike connected, and it added to the ever-expanding aura of greatness around ‘The Spider’. After a straight-forward TKO win over Yushin Okami, Silva entered the second feud with Chael Sonnen.
Sonnen’s stock had dropped considerably after failing a drug test following their first meeting, but the second fight was gargantuan by all accounts. Their meeting at UFC 148 couldn’t have been any more different though, as a flailing ‘American Gangster’ got dealt with by TKO in just two rounds. Silva extended the record for most consecutive title defenses to 10, and was emanating invincibility. Then came a rather pointless light-heavyweight foray against Stephan Bonnar who at this stage was a shell of his former self, and would go on to fail a drug test for steroids after his daft TKO loss to ‘The Spider’ at UFC 153.
The win made it 16 straight for Silva, the most consecutive fights ever won in the UFC. The sky was the limit for Silva but little did anyone know he was already in descent.
Superman meets Kryptonite
Cue UFC 162 on July 6. 2013 and a title defense against the relatively unknown Chris Weidman in Las Vegas. Silva, the obvious betting favorite to win, came in to the fight with a 33-4 record. Unbeaten in more than seven years and 17 fights, few expected ‘The Spider to falter against ‘The All-American’, little did they know that the quiet wrestler from New York would beat the long-standing champion at his own game, and turn his career on it’s head.
After a first round filled with taunting, dancing and just basic silliness, the champ came out looking for more of the same; dropping his hands and goading Weidman in to dangerous striking exchanges. It was at the 1:18 mark of that historic second round that Silva’s streak was snapped, altering the landscape of the middleweight division immeasurably and conquering the man many considered unbeatable.
Silva’s clowning had caught up to him, as ‘The All-American’ rocked his jaw with a well timed left hook, planting the champ on his back as his hands were down by his waist while he mocked Weidman with a wobbly leg dance. The criticism aimed at Silva after the fight was overwhelming, as was his fall from grace. ‘The Spider’ went on to give an equally ground-breaking interview after the fight, declaring the new champion as ‘the next generation’, and relinquishing his role as the king, claiming he was done with the role.
All was not lost for Silva though, as he would receive an immediate title rematch at UFC 168 in December of 2013. Perhaps he took it on too soon, or maybe Weidman just has his number, or it’s both, but Silva’s gruesome injury truly marked the beginning of the end for his squeaky clean reputation, maybe his legacy too. A checked kick saw Silva’s shin snap horribly, sending him to an extended DL sit and unleashing storms of speculation about whether he would ever compete again.
The Brazilian hero would indeed return, but it would eventually lead to a career battle of epic proportions, that even an incredible fighter like Silva could not overcome.
UFC 183 vs Nick Diaz, failed drug test
The odyssey of Silva continued, as he returned from over a year away from active fighting, but he was never out of the spotlight. Each and every move was followed diligently through social media and news outlets, as ‘The Spider’ maintained he would make a victorious comeback in the near future. His rehabilitation was watched closely as fans anticipated his ‘prodigal son’ moment, and it finally came when the UFC 183 booking against Nick Diaz became official.
The media debated endlessly about how a win or loss could make or break Silva’s future, how the fight really was meaningless but also very fun, and that it was amazing to see Silva fight again after such an unfortunate end to his reign as champion. All of this would go to tatters after fight night, not because of the humdrum decision win that Silva earned over a posing Diaz, but due to the failed drug test controversy that would go on to devour Anderson Silva, one of the greatest ever, in a hailstorm of bad press and questions.
‘The Spider’ failed both pre and post-fight drug screens for two types of benzodiazepine, Oxazepam and Temazepam, and also for anabolic steroids drostanolone and androstane. Even at this stage, there was still a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for Silva, as conflicting drug tests left many suddenly questioning the integrity of the doping procedures in use.
The next and perhaps most damning stage of Silva’s storied tapestry in the fighting world would put to rest all of our questions, as Anderson Silva stood before the NAC (Nevada Athletic Commission) to answer for the flunked dope screens.
All doubts were cast aside at Silva’s August 13. hearing, but possibly more concerning questions have also been left in the aftermath. His representatives were ill-equipped to deal with even the most simple of questions in regards to the past six months, and more specifically to the now-infamous failed dope screens on January 9th and 31st. After claiming to have taken the benzos as pain killers for a sciatic nerve injury, things took a turn for the downright strange as the former UFC champion detailed an unmarked bottle of blue liquid from Thailand, given to him by a friend, which he called ‘Cialis’ or ‘Viagra’ during the hearing.
The ridiculous story continued on, as Silva’s statements were picked apart by the Commissioners, and he was exposed as being untruthful and evasive in his answers. One NAC rep described Silva’s responses as ‘soft’, and by the end of the drawn out cse there were many indicators of Silva’s guilt; admitting he’d taken the drug on the 8th that showed in the 31st of January drug test-proved impossible by a doctor, sudden memories that altered the story when put under pressure, and then there were the physical tells-rubbing his chin on the mic, his overall body language and tone of voice when faced with a difficult question.
By the end of the hearing, Silva struggled to even give a simple yes/no answer when quizzed ‘Were you aware that you are required to be truthful when filling in the pre-fight testing questionnaire?’ (obviously translated). The fighter who could end a man’s night in an instant, with the flick of a limb, such a precise and calculating warrior in the octagon, reduced to a bumbling mess when confronted with a straight forward question. The end result of Silva’s obvious falsehoods and lack of respect for the rules? The most severe punishment possible (for the time of the fail), a year’s ban and a chunky fine, but perhaps even worse is the damage to his legacy and image.
It will only be another five months before Silva is clear to fight in the UFC again, and there’s a very high possibility he will, but he will clearly never be the same fighter. The kicker of it all? Had he just admitted his wrongdoing in front of the NAC, instead of concocting some wild story about magical penis juices from Asia, he would have surely gained back the respect of millions, salvaged some honor for himself and maybe a reduced sentence would have been handed down. Throughout the entire hearing, only one question stuck in my mind, as the commission asked Silva if he had ever undergone strict drug testing in the past, rather than just on fight night, the answer was no.
I’ll leave that debate to you.