Josh Hedges, Zuffa LLC, via Getty Images
You may not be able to teach an old cagefighter to do something that involves sustaining less brain trauma but that doesn't stop the good souls in the MMA media from trying to talk Wanderlei Silva into retiring.
Ok a little confessional before we start the festivities here, before UFC on Fuel 8: Silva vs. Stann, I was one of those know-it-alls saying they didn't even want to see Wanderlei Silva fight against Brian Stann in Japan. I claimed I just didn't want to see good old Wandy get hurt anymore.
Come Saturday night of course, I walked away from the laptop, left the Bloody Elbow twitter unattended and got as close to the HDTV screen as I could and screamed, cried and cheered as Silva and Stann engaged in a brawl with neither subtlety nor flaw and at the end, when Silva finally put Stann away I coudn't contain my cheering.
Then came the hangover.
Jesse Holland of MMA Mania was the first to bum my trip:
Nobody wants to talk about pugilistic dementia, but sometimes we have to. Am I spoiling the moment?
It's not intentional. But while we're all celebrating and high-fiving over Wandy being "back," let's also remember the time may come when the Brazilian is wearing adult diapers and eating baby food through a straw, because everyone wanted him to go out like a "warrior."
If Silva retired tonight, he would.
With a record of 4-5 since his Octagon return, Wandy isn't going to be in the running for a title shot. So where does that leave him? "Fun fights" that pit him against other strikers, which means there won't be any wrestling or jiu-jitsu, just blows to the head.
Is that what we've come to now? Keeping guys around so they can whale on each other as we roar in approval and make cute little GIFs of the violence?
Mike Chiappetta of MMA Fighting piled on:
Is this something we can continue to remain happy about? With added attention on brain injury in contact sport athletes in recent years, we owe it to the men who risk their health to entertain us to ask when enough is enough.
Let's face it, the win over Stann would be a perfect ending. Silva, now four months from his 37th birthday, has nothing left to prove to anyone. He hasn't for years. ...
I'm not delusional. I don't expect him to take it. The old warrior is riding high, a well-deserved ride on cloud nine. ...
So I understand that most likely, Silva will fight on, caught between divisions, struggling to hold on to his youth, trying to prove he's more than just a late-career gatekeeper. A consummate showman and personable ambassador, he deserves better than all that. Regardless of what we think, he'll choose his own terms. Let's just hope he chooses them wisely.
You know Kevin Iole wasn't about to miss the party:
Instead of going out on a loss, though, perhaps it's time for the 36-year-old to walk away on his own terms. He'd be leaving after one of his most memorable wins, won while standing and trading toe-to-toe with one of the sport's most heavy-handed punchers.
It would be great to see him walk away, his health intact, and go out on top. Much like one-time rival Chuck Liddell, though, it's that love of the fight and the gunslinger's mentality that will bring him back. It may not end pretty for Wanderlei Silva, but it was a wonderfully violent nine minutes on Saturday.
Ben Fowlkes waxed lyrical:
You can't really blame him, can you? A couple years ago, we said he was done, washed-up, his chin long gone and his power nothing more than the fading echo of his youth. Now look. He might have staggered and stumbled through Stann's haymakers, but he was still conscious and clear-eyed even after wading into the fray with his hands nowhere near his own face. It's as if the plastic surgeon who gave him a new face also threw in a fresh chin at no extra charge. Who's to say he doesn't have a few more of these magical nights left in him?
The trouble is, if you can't walk away when you're winning, you end up sticking around until you've had more than your fill of losing. And when you have a style like Silva's, which courts disaster even in victory, you almost can't help but invite the kind of damage that can't be undone with surgery or rehab. That's the fear, isn't it? That Wanderlei will prove to be way too Wanderlei for his own good? Maybe he already is.
History tells us that this is how it usually goes with great fighters. Too bad it doesn't tell them. Or rather, too bad that when it does tell them, they rarely seem to get the message on time. After all, who wants to listen to those dreary warnings about a hypothetical future when you're so busy celebrating the glorious present? Who could even hear them over the roar of the Saitama Super Arena crowd and the whispers of the ghosts?
Jonathan Snowden even felt compelled to apologize for not wanting the fight to happen:
What we learned against Stann, what we should have known all along, is that Wanderlei Silva isn't meant to go meekly into the darkness. While some fear diminishing physical and mental acuity, you never have. It's a price you, and too many other fighters, are willing to pay for greatness, trading tomorrow for today.
It wasn't right for me to expect a man like you to see the world the way I do. The truth is that Wanderlei Silva isn't a man like other men. You are a peerless warrior.
Until that last winging hook goes thud, until that last opponent says to himself, in a final, fleeting second of consciousness "I've made a horrible mistake," I'm in. The world needs Wanderlei Silva. I need Wanderlei Silva. I'll never leave your side again.
I'm afraid we're in for the long haul with Wanderlei and I'll be rooting along too, but biting my nails the whole way and knowing deep in my gut that someday we'll see Wanderlei Silva tottering along and say, "It's such a shame, ah but wasn't it a glorious run?"