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RIO DE JANEIRO – Anderson Silva’s biggest challenge isn’t headlining a UFC pay-per-view, fighting an opponent set on knocking him out, or coming off a loss.
Rather, it’s his age: 44.
“I’m continuing to do my best and work hard for my company and my sport,” Silva (34-9 MMA, 17-5 UFC) explained to MMA Junkie before his UFC 237 matchup against Jared Cannonier (11-4 MMA, 4-4 UFC), which takes place Saturday at Jeunesse Arena. “That’s the challenge for my mind and my body and my team.”
There aren’t many answers beyond that. Silva professes not to know how many fights he has left on his current contract – three, four, whatever. He took the fight because he wanted to snap back after a gutsy loss to Israel Adesanya, and the UFC knew he wanted to fight again in Brazil.
A title fight? Sure, he’ll take it, but it won’t drive his late-stage career.
“You become older, you watch your life at a different angle, and you try to use the old experience to help you continue,” Silva said. “I’ve tried to make every day better and continue in the sport, because it’s an amazing and very interesting sport.”
That’s one way to describe the past six years of Silva’s career. While clearly no longer the dominant force he was from 2006-13, the Brazilian superstar has shown flashes of brilliance. He’s battled back from an injury that almost ended his career, twice failed post-fight drug tests (receiving an exoneration of sorts in the second), and helped saved UFC 200 after Jon Jones failed a drug test by stepping in on short notice to face Daniel Cormier.
Beyond all that, he’s just a guy who continues to show up in the gym, facing younger sparring partners who try to keep the idol in the best shape he can be.
“The guys are fighting, and it gives me a challenge every day when I go to sparring,” he said.
The fight with Cannonier doesn’t carry the same “old lion vs. new lion” storyline that ultimately justified the matchup against Adesanya, who many predicted would terminate Silva.
Instead, it’s a homecoming where the ex-champ returns to the place that forged him into a great martial artist, also elevating him to the kind of celebrity few of his ilk have experienced. Some question whether that’s enough, but here he is.
Pry for answers on why he’s still doing it, and “The Spider” offers platitudes that are as elusive as they are vague. He contradicts himself, saying he’s continuing to please himself, only to say he’s doing it for the fans later.
There are no easy answers other than a love for the game.
“I think I don’t need to prove anything for anybody in this sport,” Silva said. “I tried to make everything special for a long time. Now, I just continue to do my best and put my heart inside the cage, and do a special show for my fans.”
All of his reasons, real and otherwise, can of course share space. And the fans will probably continue to watch, taking in his career from different angles. They’re perhaps not the ones we wanted or expected, but they’ll definitely be interesting.
News | MMA Junkie