Mailbag: What’s next for Silva?
Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White was no happier with middleweight champion Anderson Silva 48 hours later than he had been after Silva’s ho-hum unanimous decision victory Saturday over Thales Leites in the main event of UFC 97 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
White, though, said Monday he simply wants to see Silva fight with more of a sense of urgency than he has in his last two fights, wins over Leites and at UFC 90 in October against Patrick Cote.
White said at the postfight news conference that he was going to speak to Silva and manager Ed Soares in the locker room, but they were gone by the time he arrived.
But White said Silva is simply so much better than anybody at middleweight now that he needs to be challenged more. White reiterated his position that he’ll pit Silva against an elite light heavyweight, but he doused water on speculation Silva’s next opponent could be ex-205-pound champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
White did not arrive in Las Vegas from the fight until late Monday afternoon. He spent Sunday in Philadelphia at meetings and plans to fly to New York for more meetings Tuesday.
He said he hasn’t had an opportunity to work on Silva’s next opponent but is committed to pairing him against an elite light heavyweight in his next fight.
“He won the fight and he did what he had to do, so I give him that,” White said Monday. “The guy is so talented, it’s scary. Guys can’t do anything against him. People go to leg kick him and he stops the kicks with his feet. Instead of checking the kicks, he sticks his foot out and stops the kick with his foot. It’s like stuff from ‘The Matrix.’ The guy is incredible.
“My issue is, why not finish him? Where is the killer instinct? We haven’t seen that for a while? Why isn’t he letting his hands and feet go? He got on the ground and was beating the [expletive] out of Thales, but then he stood up and backed off and made it look like Thales was doing something wrong.”
White declined to say what he said when he left his seat during the fight and spoke to Soares at ringside.
“I want to leave it between me and him, but I didn’t yell at him or say anything bad,” White said. “It was more like, ‘What is going on?’ ”
White also said he’s convinced that his close friend, former light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell, is permanently retired and will never fight again. He said Liddell is financially set for life and that no other promoter would be able to entice him to fight.
White said Liddell became rich and famous by listening to him.
“Chuck is not going to fight again, I guarantee you that,” White said. “We did it. We came from making $500 [to appear] and $500 [to win] to the point where he became the richest, most famous mixed martial artist in the world. He did it by listening to me. That’s not going to change.”
On that note, let’s delve into a very busy mailbag, in which everyone, it seems, had an opinion about Silva and/or Liddell. My answers, as always, are in italics.
WRONG ON SPIDER
I enjoy your articles, but do not necessarily agree with your views on certain subject matters. I am specifically writing to you about the Anderson Silva-Thales Leites fight and the comments made by Dana White. In my opinion, the lackluster performance cannot be directed to anyone but Dana White. As dominant a fighter that Silva has proven in the past, and understanding the challenges that Dana White has in finding him a serious contender in his division, ultimately, it is Dana’s responsibility to ensure an exciting fight. As champion, Silva’s responsibility is to fight whomever Dana White believes is going to bring the biggest paycheck to the UFC organization, but it is also Dana’s responsibility to find the fighter with the biggest heart and desire to try to dominate over the reigning champion. … If I’m the champion and I had an opponent that just wanted to lay down and not engage, and I knew I was winning the fight, I would save my good looks and conditioning for my next paycheck.
One of the greatest boxing trainers ever, Georgie Benton, is known for his saying, “Win this fight. Look good in the next one.” And that’s certainly what Silva did. He knew it made no sense to go to the ground with Leites and he didn’t. I applaud him for that. However, this is an entertainment business and you make people want to see you by engaging in exciting fights. I concede Leites made it difficult, but Silva had chances to make something happen and he didn’t. I personally didn’t think Leites deserved the title shot and told White so before the fight. However, it’s not like there are many middleweights, in the UFC or not, who could push Silva. Given that, it’s hard to blame White. But Silva will be challenged next time out and I think you’ll see a different type of performance.
MISSING THE POINT
How can you expect MMA to be considered a legitimate sport when you seem to think it is the fighter’s responsibility “to put on a show” rather than to win the fight? The rope-a-dope that Muhammad Ali employed against George Foreman in 1974 was no fun to watch, but he won the fight, and no one would be so short-sighted to say that he should have fought differently in order to put on a better show. Watching the Baltimore Ravens in their Super Bowl season was tedious at times, but they were successful because they won. If you want MMA to be relegated to the status of a circus sideshow, then your article is well thought out and well written. I, on the other hand, would like to see it continue to gain appreciation as a legitimate sport and am dumbfounded when someone completely misses the point that the objective of any competition is to win (within the rules, of course).
I love MMA, too, John; you’re not the only one, believe me. When Ali fought Foreman in Zaire, he did lay on the ropes, but when the opportunity to finish presented itself, he took it. Could Ali have gotten knocked out when he opened up and went for the finish in the eighth round? Of course. Foreman was one of the biggest punchers in heavyweight history, and Ali was ahead on all three cards going into the eighth. But Ali took a risk in order to be great, and he succeeded. And though I’m one of the world’s biggest Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans, I’d hardly say the Ravens’ Super Bowl team was tedious to watch. Nor were the Steelers this year. But they played to win and it seemed to me on Saturday that Silva fought not to lose.
LEITES’ STRATEGY POOR
Thales Leites should be kicked out of the UFC for his embarrassing performance! Maybe Thales forgot he was in a championship bout and needed to throw a punch or two in order to win. Here is a thought, Thales: Throw a punch or two and then transition the fight to the ground. Flopping won’t do a darn thing for you! With so many talented fighters waiting to get their shot at Silva, the UFC gave a shot to Thales “Road Runner” Leites. I feel ripped off for ordering the fight. I can only imagine how the fan who forked over $200 for nose bleeders at the Bell Centre feels. Someone needs to pay for the lack of effort displayed between Silva and Leites. I’m guessing it won’t be Anderson. Do you see Thales in the UFC’s immediate future?
Santa Monica, Calif.
White has defended Leites, so I suspect we’ll see him again. You make a good point, Rico. Leites was somewhat aggressive in the first two rounds, but then seemed to back off and simply flop onto his back. He needed to use his strikes to set up a takedown and then try to work on the ground.
SPORT, NOT A BUSINESS
UFC is a SPORT first and a business second. How did Silva not hold up his end of the bargain? He is a fighter and fought to win, not win over the crowd.
San Gabriel, Calif.
Wrong, Dan. The UFC is a business, first, last and always. The owners and the fighters are in it to make money and wouldn’t do it if they weren’t making it. Yes, the UFC was once $40 million in the hole, but the owners kept going because they believed that eventually, MMA would catch on. Now that it has, they’re making money. But don’t think for a second this is anything but a business. And while Silva won and did what he had to do to win, he didn’t enhance his reputation with the way he fought.
Where do you think Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s win puts him in the light heavyweight division? Rashad Evans’ win against Chuck Liddell was impressive, but he wasn’t winning the fight before the big punch and he was given a title shot. Rua’s win obviously was more definitive. I’d say his combination of striking and grappling skills is unmatched in the division.
It was a good step for Rua, but let’s be honest: He beat a 44-year-old in his previous fight and a 39-year-old, who had lost three of his last four, on Saturday. To say he’s the top fighter in the loaded light heavyweight division is ignoring the obvious. He’ll get a big fight off his win over Liddell, but he’s hardly been consistent since joining the UFC. Let’s see a bit more before we coronate him, OK guys?
Chuck Liddell has been my favorite fighter for as long as I remember, but I think I like him more now than ever, even though he’s retiring. He is almost 40 and knew his time is coming to an end, but he took on a very tough opponent in Shogun and fought his heart out. That’s why Chuck was so beloved.
Liddell can no longer take a punch like he could before, so he loses fights that he previously would have won. But the man always came to fight and always gave the public its money’s worth. I commend him for that and congratulate him on a terrific career.