There was a long moment after Chris Weidman became the UFC’s new middleweight champion that Ed Soares, the longtime manager and friend of Anderson Silva, stood staring at the cage at MGM Grand. He looked devastated. Crestfallen. The empire he had lorded over had just crumbled before him, and just like that, it all became merely a dream. Only it was a dream that now belonged to somebody else.
It wasn’t just the fact of it happening, because Silva one day losing was a long enduring inevitability. We all knew at some point he’d fall. He wasn’t going to win forever.
It was the how.
Silva rolled out the red carpet for Weidman to come forward and touch his chin under the lights for everyone to see. Only thing Weidman could do was oblige. He wasn’t falling for the hocus-pocus like so many who went before him. He was bent on wresting that belt from Silva’s grip.
And he did just that.
In a sequence that will forever go down as one of the most bizarre, intense and humiliating in UFC history, the 38-year-old Silva dropped his hands and dodged bullets in the second round. The showman in him trusted his reflexes to steer clear of danger, as he’d done plenty of times before. He postured and egged the challenger on, and strafed Weidman with the occasional fast-twitch jab. “Come on,” he kept saying, waving Weidman in. Was he psyching Weidman out, or psyching himself up? Like Muhammad Ali, there’s no distinguishing between the two. UFC president Dana White later said all that was just “Silva being Silva.”
Yet everyone knows that Silva being Silva is more complicated than it should be. He is, after all, duplicitous. He pretended his knees buckled when a left rolled off his brow. Mockery. What he was saying was clear: “That’s all you got?”
Weidman, the intended target of the humiliation, kept forward.
Seconds later he clipped Silva, and down went the boogeyman of the division. Who’d have thought that Silva would cough up his belt to something as awkward as this: antics that backfired spectacularly. It wasn’t the way people imagined it might happen. Seven years of reign and myth all came down with him. The centerpiece to the “superfight” drama of the past couple of years went down, too. So did the stadium shows and a streak for the ages. Weidman cleared out the superfight division with an engraved left.
Everything else evaporated before our eyes. Like water.
So what do we make of the whole thing, a couple of days later? It’s open season for opinions.
Maybe it was hubris that caused the showboat to capsize. Maybe it was Weidman’s cool, his refusal to be baited into something dumb. Maybe Silva is finally his age, getting too old for adjectives such as “sublime.” Maybe he knows it. Maybe he knew Weidman was a greater threat the whole time, and was carrying self-doubt into the Octagon. Maybe the wig-out was pressure coming to the surface, or he was thinking about Roy Jones Jr. sitting cageside. Then again, maybe Weidman is just that good. Maybe Weidman never loses again, or he just has Silva’s number. Maybe he just got caught, as Mark Munoz said after the fight.
The plain fact is this: It was hubris that got Silva knocked out, and it’s hubris that will bring him back in. You think a champion of his ability and legacy is going to go out like that? No way. Moments after the fight, he said he had no pressing need for a rematch. That rare moment is no time to take a man at his word.
Wait until the whole thing sinks in. That he got clubbed after all but sending out an embossed invitation for Weidman to do it. That had he presented himself as a “ballet of violence,” as Joe Rogan once famously said, instead of a willing participant to his own downfall. That he could have run his streak to 17-0 in the UFC, and made Weidman look as green as they said he was.
No, it won’t take long for pride to report, even if Silva does take some time off. That might be what’s needed after suffering his first loss in 17 UFC fights. In the time it takes him to realize he wants his belt back, there will be a new landscape to think about. All of the guys who lost to Silva and had little chance of getting another shot at the belt have been reinvigorated overnight. The new sheriff has so little history. He barely has an ounce of Silva’s mystique -- even if he’s carrying that mystique around Long Island today in his back pocket.
One thing is certain, though. Silva losing has its own fascination. How does he respond? Does he come back in no-nonsense form like when he was downing Chris Leben and Rich Franklin? Or was UFC 162 the dreaded day that began Silva’s undoing?
These are all of the new narratives. And we’ll have to contemplate them along with Ed Soares until they come together again. When they do, it’ll be Silva who walks out first. And that in itself is very strange indeed.