The common theme in the wake of Anderson Silva's loss to Chris Weidman at UFC 162 has been that Silva played around too much, he clowned to the point of allowing too good of a fighter to stay in the fight for too long. In the minutes following the fight I had written that I felt cheated that Silva's incredible run came to the end it did. Not because Silva clowned, it's a part of his style. But rather because it felt like he didn't take advantage of opportunities that his clowning had opened in the late first round and early second.
But, to some, the issue is in the mythical "respect of the sport." Silva got what he had coming because he wasn't "respectful enough."
"The first thing you learn (in martial arts) is respect. Your opponent across the other side of the mat, the Octagon, he is the most important person in that moment for you, because that's the person who makes you compete, who gives you the pleasure to entertain people. But, I see martial arts not just from an entertainment side. I see it as a sport. And as a sport, like in NBA, NFL, we have a code of conduct. And that's something that the UFC, we need to start having that. I think [Silva] really didn't have any conduct on this fight. He acted inappropriately and it wasn't the first time, so I hope this will be the last time that he does."
By contrast, there was a pair of articles that came out yesterday that looked at what Silva did as a sort of masterpiece.
If there is one certainty about Anderson Silva, beyond the fact that he's the greatest hand-to-hand combatant the world has ever known, it's that he hates MMA. More specifically, he hates what MMA has become: a sport whose best and worst practitioners alike almost universally worship at the temples of utilitarianism and risk management. The sport to which he has strived to bring aesthetic value is overrun by folks who view the world through the eyes of a middle manager. For Silva, this would be like spending one's life wearing pleated cargo shorts and watching reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond.
In that sense, it was inevitable that Silva would dedicate himself to trolling the sport he lords over. After all, once you realize that you hate your job but are too good at it to do anything else, what else is there to do other than artfully troll everyone in sight? The emphasis is on "artfully," because Silva's struggle has been to make the world see him as an artist, first and foremost. When your job is fighting inside a cage for money, wishing to be judged by the same standards as Jean-Michel Basquiat or Frida Kahlo makes roughly zero sense -- until the Brazilian sporting culture Silva grew up in is taken into account.
Of course the truth is that Silva had treated Weidman like a ridiculous joke, a fighter not even worthy of his derision; that he paid for it, as was eventually going to happen if he kept doing this, and that if White wants to make fights between Silva and anyone, as many people are going to pay as much to see them now as they would have if he'd won. Nothing that happened in the fight suggested anything other than that if Silva had considered knocking out Weidman to be more worth his time than utterly humiliating him, he would have done so. The champion is the champion, and deserves his shiny belt. The great man, though, remains great.
This performance was elevated to the level of art by a last bit of context. The UFC, as any number of people who work for it and cover it closely will tell you, is not a sport in any normal sense. Fighters are judged not by what they do but by how they do it, because the point is to make money, and the public, it is believed, doesn't care about wins or losses as much as it cares about style. Winning a dull fight convincingly is worse than losing a good one closely, and you don't even have to be all that good to get the marquee fights if you can make people believe that what you do matters. One fighter on Saturday's card, Frankie Edgar, was coming off a stretch of five straight title bouts in which he won once. It's common, these days, for fighters to get a title shot coming off a decisive loss.
What could be more right and fitting than for the greatest of all time in such a sport to actually transcend the idea that he should even try to win? Having comprehensively unmanned his supposed greatest challenger, all that was left for Silva was the troll apotheosis. The sight of the best ever getting knocked out clean is the final and perfect embodiment of what greatness is in a sport where winning literally doesn't matter. It is unimprovable. I hope he never fights again.