Retirement is a topic that is the furthest from anyone’s mind when talking about Anderson Silva. Silva, after all, has sat atop the UFC’s middleweight division for the last five years. He’s produced some of the sport’s most memorable moments, and he’s considered by many to be the pound-for-pound best fighter in the sport today. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call him the greatest fighter of all-time.
Silva is 36 years old. Most athletes begin a slow and steady decline in their physical abilities once they reach their early thirties. Silva is considered an exception to the rule.
Silva’s technical prowess and the experience he’s gained over the years has kept him on his pedestal. He’s one of the most skilled strikers in the entire sport, and his come-from-behind submission victory over Chael Sonnen is proof that he still has what it takes to defeat even the most physically dominating opponents. Again, retirement seems like a crazy thought.
MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani asked Dana White in a post-UFC 134 press conference interview about the possibility of Anderson Silva retiring from the sport. White didn’t have a clue when it would happen, but he did acknowledge the fact that Silva is at an age in which it makes sense.
There is also a track record that suggests it is a constant thought in Anderson Silva’s mind. Silva’s manager, Ed Soares, talked about Silva’s goal of retiring at age 35 and the attempt to set him up financially to achieve that goal. Silva stated that he would retire in 2009 in the lead-up to his scrap with Patrick Cote at UFC 90. He contradicted those statements in the lead-up to his bout with Chael Sonnen at UFC 117, telling Sherdog.com that Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira convinced him to keep fighting. “He’s the best today, and I want him to retire the same way.”, said Soares when asked if he was okay with Silva’s decision.
Chris Lytle’s beautiful exit from the sport at UFC on Versus 5 roughly two weeks ago reminds us that Soares’ wish for Silva is possible. Lytle wasn’t the most successful fighter in terms of accomplishments, but he was considered one of the most exciting fighters to ever grace the Octagon. He went out on his own terms, and the outcome was something every fighter should admire.
The UFC’s entry into Brazil is an enticing distraction from that goal however. The flood of big name sponsorship opportunities and the chance to rake in revenues from fights featuring him in the country could keep him around for another two or three years. Can Silva sustain the level of success we’ve all come to expect from him? Will age finally catch up with him?
The expiration date on Silva’s career is rapidly approaching. We may not know when that time will come, but it’s obvious that those around him want to see him go out as the best there ever was. Decades from now, we’ll be watching mixed martial arts events with our boys, talking about the next great fighter of that generation, and we’ll say to those young fans… “have you ever watched Anderson Silva?”. Strangely, his name will act as a tool for grandfathers to connect with their sons and grandsons. Never in a million years would I have thought that mixed martial arts would work in that manner, but it will.
Silva’s dream to go out on top will more than likely happen. Even if he loses to Okami, which I don’t think will happen, he is skilled enough to climb the mountain again and go out on top. Ed Soares will get his wish, and Silva’s family will see their brother, uncle, or father grow old without missing memories. He’ll be a walking legend, a man who will be ingrained in the sport of mixed martial arts forever.
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