Sometimes Anderson “Spider” Silva is everything I love about MMA. Sometimes, he’s none of them.
You see, I love a Mixed Martial Artist who fights like – wait for it — a martial artist.
What does this mean? Well, like defining the martial arts, it’s kind of hard to say. But, similarly, I know it when I see it.
It means fighting, for one thing, and using a dynamic attack. It’s seeing, for lack of a better term, a certain sense of fluidity in a fighting style. It’s seeing technique that a smaller fighter could use to defeat a bigger one. BJ Penn has talked about killing weight classes altogether for this reason. It should be relentless, even if it’s being relentlessly elusive, like Lyoto Machida at his best.
Generally, I’d say it means working to defeat the opponent, not impressing the judges by just putting the minutes of each round together.
Maybe it means a sense of respect, too — like bowing to the opponent, and to the four corners to show respect to the fans.
I want to see a little of Jigoro Kano’s ideal – that maxim which the founder of judo had of maximum efficiency, minimum effort, and for mutual benefit. (Just… in a cage fight, which I’ll admit I realize that Kano wouldn’t like very much.) Maybe that “benefit” is just to prove who the better fighter is, using the best technique.
I want to see a little of what Masutatsu Oyama, the father of Kyokushin Karate, described as he felt impelled “to unify his body and spirit” through his fighting, even if it meant fighting a bull. (And, they say he did. In his book “Mastering Karate” Oyama wrote that he was going to fight a bear as well, but “financial conditions deprived me of the chance.”)
It’s not about cutting weight, or cutting promo’s. But those have become part of the game that I’ve come to accept. It’s part of the business (and yes, this business of martial arts is still a business; as stated, it was even a business in Oyama’s day).
Anyway, Silva pretty much does all those things — and that’s why I want to see him every time he enters the octagon. In the same way, I gushed over Charles Oliveira in Wednesday’s column – but of course, Anderson Silva is at a totally different level as an athlete. (To be fair, Oliveira is only 23 and not near his prime. Maybe he turns a corner Saturday. Actually, Oliveira’s current 16-3-1 record is eerily similar to Silva’s 16-4 ledger through 20 fights…)
But, all that said, sometimes Silva seems none of those things.
You don’t see a martial artist in the Anderson Silva who bullied an overmatched Damien Maia in Abu Dhabi. Instead of respect, we heard epithets. Instead of fighting to defeat his opponent, well, he was actually docked points for refusing to fight at all. Dana White has openly apologized to fans for some of these theatrics. Renzo Gracie describes Silva as “rubbing people the wrong way.”
In the fight game, maybe no one’s as fun to watch as Anderson Silva. Maybe no one is as frustrating, either.
But, who’s the greatest MMA fighter of all time?
Well, I know that when I see it too. So, I’ll watch tomorrow — hoping to see him at his best.