LAS VEGAS – If ever there was a fighter who had it coming, it was Anderson Silva.
First he toyed with Chris Weidman, then he mocked him, then he got knocked out by him. As comeuppances go, it was about as immediate and as weirdly satisfying as you're ever likely to see.
The lesson was clear enough. Aesop's Fables have more subtlety. Silva – a fighter who's always blurred the lines between combat and play – finally went and played with the wrong guy. That mistake at UFC 162 on Saturday night cost him his UFC middleweight title, his record-breaking win streak, and probably more than a little respect. It made for a jaw-dropping spectacle, but maybe it shouldn't have been such a surprising one.
If you've seen Silva fight before, you've already seen this movie. It just had a different ending this time. The taunting? The joking? The total disregard for the other man's potential to do something violently memorable to him on live TV? We loved all that when it worked, when it resulted in a devastating finish that made us wonder if the real challenge for Silva wasn't winning, but keeping himself from getting bored. This time he got a little too careless with the wrong person. This time he was the cautionary tale instead of the exception to every rule.
Maybe it's the law of averages at work. You play around with professional fighters as often as Silva, eventually it has to go bad. But that's the bad part here, at least for Weidman. After a finish like that, it's tough to say whether he beat Silva or whether Silva beat himself. He got cheated just a little bit in that sense, though he didn't seem to care too much while he was hefting that UFC title belt for the first time.
In a logical world, here's where the obvious rematch would answer these lingering questions and make a pile of money for everyone involved. But then, this is MMA. Logic doesn't always enter into it, especially not with a fighter like Silva, who almost seems to relish the chance to be intentionally vague and a little bit difficult.
Here's a guy who came into his title defense with the promise of a guaranteed rematch if he lost, then insisted that he didn't want one once it was over. Here's a guy who just signed a 10-fight deal that he still claims he'll fulfill, but not by fighting for the title he held for the better part of the last seven years, which he said after the loss that he was now finished with.
You'd have to be crazy not to want to do this fight again. Or maybe you'd just have to be Anderson Silva.
Not that UFC president Dana White is buying that for one second.
"Anderson Silva has [losses] on his record, [but] Anderson Silva doesn't know what it feels like to lose," White said at the post-fight press conference. "I guarantee you he wants that rematch with Chris Weidman."
And, sure enough, by the time Silva showed up to the presser his hard no had already softened to a non-committal plea for some time off. Give that a few months, and odds are the seed will grow into a firm yes. How could it not? You probably don't get to be a UFC champ in the first place if you find it easy to live with defeat. You definitely don't become the sport's greatest fighter, a title Silva could lay claim to even if he called it quits now.
He won't, though. He can't, not after that embarrassing end. At times after Saturday's loss, he sounded almost glad to be rid of the title, as well as the weight of all those expectations. He also sounded utterly unrepentant about the strategy of clowning and posing that got him knocked out in the first place. It's as if he's been doing that for so long that he thinks it's an inescapable part of fighting. As if no one could possibly defend the middleweight title without screwing around at least a little bit.
On Saturday night, a little became a lot. Then he woke up on his back. In the end it could be nothing more than a fascinating footnote in an already remarkable career, or it could be a crucial turning point. Depends what he does next.
Before this fight, we may have wondered how Silva stayed motivated. We asked what he could possibly do inside a cage that he hadn't already done. Now we have our answer: He can seek redemption. We just have to wait and see if – or more likely when – Silva will choose to accept that new mission. Then we'll get a chance to see if he still thinks the UFC cage is such a safe place to play around.