Overtime: Anderson Silva: More than a great fighter

“I’m not the best. I just do things that people think are impossible.”

Anderson Silva dropped this line shortly after earning a technical knockout victory over Stephan Bonnar at UFC 153. While this statement holds some merit, it’s only half true. Silva’s a horrible judge of talent if he believes he’s not the best, but he’s spot on with the second part.

The fairest opponents for Silva live in arcade machines and on the silver screen. Eddy Gordo from Tekken could last a few rounds against him. Put The Rock’s character from “Fast Five” in there with Silva and interesting things would happen.

Silva was asked last summer what fighter could threaten him in the cage. His response?

“My clone.”

Spend a few minutes on the Internet and you’ll find a group of users yelling at each other in all caps about who they think is the best athlete in the world. What you probably won’t find is Silva’s name in the discussion. That should change.

An athlete is generally ranked by how much better they are at their sport relative to the other players. Soccer star Lionel Messi garners “best athlete” consideration under that criterion. So does LeBron James. I think it’s time Silva is mentioned in the same breath as those guys.

People wax poetic about greatness all the time. Greatness is transcendent. Greatness is hard to explain. But you know it when you see it. A person doesn’t need to be familiar with soccer or basketball to understand the greatness of Messi and James. The same thing applies to mixed martial arts and Silva.

Show Silva’s highlight reel to someone who has never watched MMA. They’ll see Silva make professional fighters look like amateurs. They’ll see him drop his hands and dare his opponents to attack. They’ll see him do whatever the hell he wants inside of the cage.

Regardless of their familiarity with MMA, it will resonate.

What they’re watching is a master. Silva is at the highest level of his craft — a level no mixed martial artist has reached before. He challenges himself to do the impossible and makes it look easy. It is almost overwhelming to observe.

Silva reminds me of Roy Jones Jr., who is arguably the top boxer of the last 20 years. In his heyday, Jones was a super talent who knew he was a super talent. He toyed with his competitors and won fights in ways most people couldn’t fathom.

Unlike Jones, Silva has a technical brilliance paired with his natural talent. This is largely why Silva has continued to thrive in his late 30’s while Jones fell off a cliff once his physical tools diminished.

My biggest fear is that Silva’s greatness will be overlooked because of our society’s perception of MMA. Many Americans view MMA as both a novelty act and blood sport. The sport has covered major ground in recent years, but the stigmas remain.

But no matter how much you oppose MMA, there is no denying Silva’s talent.

We need to treat Silva the way we treat Tom Brady and Floyd Mayweather. If we don’t, sports fans 50 years from now will wonder what our problem was.

Anderson Silva is more than just a great fighter. He’s a great athlete — one of the greatest athletes we have ever seen.

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