Former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva’s image took a severe beating this year, but is he the MMA equivalent of Barry Bonds?
Anderson Silva has drawn many comparisons during his illustrious MMA career, and up until 2015 they were all good. Pundits and fans likened ‘The Spider’ to boxing great Muhammad Ali, martial arts legend Bruce Lee, and his moves inside the octagon were akin to something from a Matrix movie. Indeed, before his loss to Chris Weidman at UFC 162, the Brazilian Muay Thai specialist was the unbeatable pound-for-pound king of mixed martial arts.
What a difference a drug test makes. Following his UFC 183 decision win over Nick Diaz, Silva fell in a hole that very few emerge from unscathed. ‘The Spider’ got popped for anabolic steroids in the most sensational MMA drug bust ever, and now the comparisons to all-time legends have slowed considerably. The chance was there for Silva to retain a degree of dignity while at his Nevada Athletic Commission hearing, but instead the ex-champ decided to put forward a weak tale of magical viagra in a glowing vile from his buddy in Thailand.
The link between Silva and former Major League Baseball star Barry Bonds is apparent, although the variables are rather different, it’s worth debating. Embroiled in the BALCO scandal, Bonds was indicted in 2007 for charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. He had lied to a federal grand jury during a 2003 investigation of the Bay Area Lab Co-Operative, and it was later revealed that Bonds had been using performance enhancing drugs throughout the later stages of his career. Having broken Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron’s home run records, Barry Bonds was the mirror image of Silva circa 2013.
‘The Spider’ had surpassed all the huge records in the UFC, the longest ever streak, most consecutive title defenses, and was being hailed as the greatest fighter to ever live. But another similarity between Bonds and Silva is Jeff Novitsky. The current UFC drug tzar was a key investigator in bringing down the MLB record smasher Bonds during his illustrious trial, although in 2015 the conviction was overturned, and oddly enough the UFC enlisted Novitzky this year.
So two untouchable legends of the sport crumbled once stricter standards were implemented, lied repeatedly throughout the whole saga, and eventually got off pretty much free and clear. With Silva receiving just a one year suspension for his juicing, and Bonds getting away without any jail time in the face of federal charges, and the final comparison between the two is much more troubling.
As many have asked recently, how long was Silva on the juice? Bonds’ rapid physical growth circa the late 90’s can be easily tracked, but ‘The Spider’ has always maintained a rather lean physique, making it a lot more difficult to judge. Perhaps he did just use steroids to clear up his broken leg from UFC 168, or maybe he was given an illegal edge throughout the entirety of his illustrious winning streak, we’ll likely never know.
What’s certain is that Anderson Silva’s legacy, like Barry Bonds, lays in tatters. The fact we’ll never be sure whether he was always a cheater is perhaps equally as damning for his legacy, and that’s a very sad fact. It’s a dark time for the sport with so many high level athletes getting busted for PED’s at the moment, and it’s eerily reminiscent of the massive Baseball steroid scandal that brought down so many household names.