Is Anderson Silva Trying To Send A Message?
Anderson Silva apparently is as smooth and calculated out of the Octagon as he is in it. While many speculate about what could be wrong with Silva, or why his last two title defenses have been lackluster at best, it seems to be that the real issue is, “What is Anderson Silva trying to say?” Silva’s actions at UFC 97 could lead one to believe that he is looking to send a very loud non-verbal message to the UFC.
It would appear that his prefight spectacle of rubbing Vaseline off of his face and onto his body, while staring in the direction of people / someone at cageside was one way to draw attention to this. Coming so soon after the UFC and Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre were steeped in controversy over an alleged “greasing” allegation, why would Silva seeming go out of his way to so blatantly do the same at a time when he is certain that a camera is firmly fixed on him.Anderson Silva
Because of the close proximity in time to the previous incident, Silva would know that any action even remotely resembling spreading a foreign substance on his body would be seen, reported, and criticized. In addition to that, he was fighting in Montreal, Canada, home of Georges St. Pierre, and the champion was at ringside for the event. Clearly the move could be construed as a message to St. Pierre himself, or an attempt to put UFC officials right back in the hot seat over the issue.
If the prefight gesture did not raise enough flags, the fight itself certainly did. We are used to seeing Silva come out and “feel out” his opponents for a few moments before engaging. However, Silva came out early in the first and barely engaged at all. The entire first minute of the fight saw both fighters circling nearly six feet apart with neither man looking to make the first round a fight. The same thing took place in the second round, with Silva rarely engaging first and spending quite a bit of the round with his hands at his side. The boos from the crowd would begin to get considerably louder in this round.
In between rounds, as the camera was in Silva’s corner, the translator gave the impression that Silva was being strongly urged to engage by his trainers. The third round began, and Silva scored early, and actually committed an unintentional foul (eye poke) that was not seen by the referee. From there Silva would be happy to land a single punch at a time and score points with leg kicks. Any time the fight went to the ground Silva would back right up and force his opponent to his feet in order to continue the fight.
The crowd’s disapproval of the fight in the third round and throughout the rest of the main event fight would grow louder and louder, with chants of “GSP” and “Bullsh*t” reigning down. And even when Silva appeared to have opportunities to open up his offense or to capitalize on a mistake, he chose instead to step back away from the engagement. Causing the jeers to become louder and louder.
In Silva’s defense, his opponent did very little to give the champion much of a fight. But after receiving quite a bit of criticism, especially from UFC President Dana White, for taking a similar approach in last bout, one would think that we would have seen the Anderson Silva that had run rough shod through UFC’s middleweight division over the last few years. But in the end, after the bout was over many would be left wondering what was wrong with Silva or just generally upset at the atypical and occasionally boring performance by such an explosive fighter.
In the post-fight press conference following the fight Dana White would say, “I can honestly tell you that I’ve never put on an event that I was embarrassed to be at until tonight. I want to publicly apologize to all the fans.” Also adding, “Watching that was hard. That was tough to take. It was embarrassing, honestly. It was really and truly embarrassing.”
Anderson Silva’s comments regarding the fight aren’t as apologetic, and can be perceived as stand-offish, “I’m comfortable with people’s opinion, because they have a right to their opinion, but when I went out there, everything I [prepared for] in training, I felt I executed in the fight. My game plan was that I wanted to go to the later rounds with Thales. I was unable to finish. Sometimes I’m able to finish guys and sometimes I’m not able to. But I felt I proved to everybody that I’m able to go five rounds and that I’m in good shape.”
Several reports have also surfaced that Silva’s manager and translator, Ed Soares embellished Anderson’s comments after the fight. Those reports state that Silva’s actual translation was not apologetic, but rather pointed in nature. Part of that translation is said to have been, “Not everyone understands what they are watching. But hey, you guys can boo if you want. You are paying my salary." Although the quotes are unconfirmed at this time, comments like this are so out of character for the Anderson Silva we’ve come to know, they are either true and evidence that he is unhappy, or the reports are incorrect.
Only Silva can speak for what may be at the root of the issues. Maybe it was UFC’s quick and direct shutdown of any talk of Anderson Silva boxing Roy Jones Jr. while still under contract to UFC. The side project is one that Silva has stated as an eventual goal for nearly a year. He has even gone so far as to say, “After my contract with the UFC ends and end my career in MMA, I intend to have a boxing match with Roy Jones. That’s something that’s already been arranged, it’s all practically a done deal. Now I just have to wait and see.” Those comments, although made on the heels of signing an extension with UFC, would lead one to believe that Silva would, in fact, walk away from Mixed Martial Arts after his contract expires.
It is also possible that Anderson Silva may not be happy about the level of opponent’s he has been matched up against. While no one argues that Silva’s first few title defenses were against fighters that were worthy of the match ups, analysts have been very critical of the fighters selected as his last three opponents. So it may come as no surprise that we have not seen the same motivated Anderson Silva in those match ups. Could it be that Anderson is looking to challenge himself beyond the fighters that are being deemed the number one contenders for his championship?
Many other issues could be involved, if Silva is actually upset with UFC officials. There is always speculation that Brazilians are not treated the same by the UFC as their American equals. It could be that Silva is being used to Main Event fights where he is not the actual top story, as in UFC’s return to Montreal. It is always possible that the issues are as simple as dollars and cents to be made by the fighter. There could be other reasons for being upset as the UFC and the outspoken Dana White are continuously under fire for a variety of topics, especially concerning some of their business strategies.
What seems clear though, is that this Anderson Silva is not the same Anderson Silva that was once the playful unassuming superstar lauded as the best pound for pound fighter in the world. And while, his being upset, or any message he may be attempting to send is all speculation at this time, there is certainly no shortage of theories or questions in the aftermath of what we saw this past Saturday at UFC 97.**