I've been deeply puzzled by MMA fans ever since I became one, and this last week has only reinforced my confusion. For now, I'm going to pass over the phenomenon whereby a loathed, xenophobic wrestler coming off of a money laundering conviction and positive testosterone test during a title fight (Chael Sonnen) is matched up against a striker with no criminal record and a Silver Star (Brian Stann) and is then somehow heavily rooted for by the people that loathed him in the first place. No, today I feel compelled to say something about those that are calling for Wanderlei Silva, 1-1 in his first two fights at middleweight and coming off a massive layoff, to retire.
It was prompted by the quickest (and, arguably, most brutal) loss of the Axe Murderer's career, as he fell to Chris Leben within the first minute last Saturday. Now, clearly, we're meant to forget (or at least fail to forgive) that Wandy hadn't fought in nearly a year and a half since besting Michael Bisping at UFC 110 last February in Australia. Let's not focus on the fact that Wanderlei is one of only two men to best Bisping at 185, and, as Bisping solidly beat Leben, finds himself in a rather charming Silva>Bisping>Leben>Silva loop (speaking of which - bring back Fight Lines, Mike Fagan). Indeed, rather than focus on the sheer quality of Wanderlei's opponents - Cro Cop before Gonzaga stole his soul, Dan Henderson, Chuck Liddell before Rashad stole his soul, Rampage in a bout that showed how truly tiny Silva was at 205, and Rich Franklin - let's just note that he's 4-6 in his last ten and resign him to the dustbin of history.
It's also troublesome to realize that we don't know the man's finances, prospects for employment after fighting, current obligations/liabilities or the sheer amount of money he stands to gain if he continues trying to compete in MMA. So let's not. Let's just pretend that none of those things matter, at least not to us. Let's focus on our memories, our tightly held preconceptions of Wanderlei Silva, and demand he doesn't sully or change them by doing what he loves to do for a living for a single second longer than WE feel is warranted. That sounds like a plan, right? I mean, who does he think he is, determining his legacy for himself?
That sounds too aggressive. Let me ask you this, dear reader: When you think of Michael Jordan, do you remember him as a Chicago Bull or a Washington Wizard?
Over at Head Kick Legend, I run down a list of legendary athletes that "held on too long" and whether or not it impacted what fans remember about them. Please keep in mind that we have no knowledge whatsoever that Wanderlei's health is currently being impacted negatively by continuing to fight.