With one short sentence, middleweight champion Anderson Silva essentially rendered meaningless a fight mixed martial arts fans have drooled over for years. Silva also provided UFC president Dana White with his biggest headache since White was tasked with finding a way out of a $44 million hole in 2005.
How could anyone care whether Silva fights welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre when Silva is so obviously running from light heavyweight champion Jon Jones?
Before Jones burst into prominence last year by going on the most dominant 18-month run in the company's history, MMA fans were salivating about a potential Silva-St-Pierre superfight.
Buying the fight would have required a leap of faith, though, because St-Pierre is a far smaller man who has yet to show the ability to compete with opponents Silva's size. Silva is naturally about 30 pounds heavier than St-Pierre and fights at middleweight, where the limit is 185 pounds, 15 pounds higher than the welterweight limit of 170.
Such, though, is not the case with a potential Jones-Silva match. Jones holds the UFC's 205-pound belt, and Silva proved yet again at UFC 153 on Saturday at HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that he has no issues making light heavyweights look as ridiculous as he does middleweights.
In the cage after knocking Stephan Bonnar out with a knee to the solar plexus, Silva doused ice water on the building momentum for a fight with Jones.
"No," he said, "I am not going to fight at 205 again."
And with those 10 simple words, he presented White with an extraordinarily large problem.
It won't be much longer before White begins to hear the two words that should frighten the bejabbers out of any fight promoter who wants to put on the matches the public most wants to see: Mayweather-Pacquiao.
Anyone who has followed the completely ridiculous three-year saga involving boxers Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao is, unquestionably, sick of it now. They still haven't fought and, from all indications, they're no closer to a match now than they've ever been.
Worse, the idiocy of the negotiations has extended to the fans of both sides, who have taken to debating what percentage of the revenues each fighter should be paid.
It's beyond moronic to argue that point. If someone is a fight fan and wants to see the Nos. 1 and 2 fighters in the world meet to determine which of them is truly the best, who cares what they are paid? Boxing fans should simply want to see them fight, whether the split is 50-50, 99-1 or, as Pacquiao recently offered, 55-45 in favor of Mayweather.
The likelihood exists, though, that the Jones-Silva saga could devolve into MMA's version of Mayweather-Pacquiao very quickly.
[UFC 153 rewind: ’Big Nog’, Glover Teixeira score big wins]
Silva has never said directly why he won't fight Jones, though it's apparently some bizarre ethos about not wanting to get in the way of a shot for one of his teammates.
He's teammates with Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante, who A) is signed with Strikeforce and thus isn't eligible to fight Jones; B) is on a suspension for having tested positive for steroids and is out until at least May 2013; and C) has done nothing to earn a shot at Jones even if he were to sign a UFC contract and the suspension were lifted today.
One of Silva's other teammates is Lyoto Machida, who will likely get a rematch against Jones in the first half of 2013, assuming he beats Dan Henderson when they meet in a yet-to-be scheduled bout.
Far more damaging to Silva and the UFC, though, is the perception growing by the minute that Silva is somehow afraid of Jones.
Silva is the greatest MMA fighter of all-time, but he hasn't faced a challenger anywhere near as gifted or as dangerous as Jones.
Silva isn't afraid of Jones; no elite fighter is afraid of another man. It's sure the perception that Silva is creating, however, and that diminishes his legacy.
Those who believe Silva is afraid of Jones would point out that Silva's been vulnerable to fighters with good wrestling and strong takedowns. Though Silva has the second-best takedown defense among UFC middleweights, neither Henderson nor Chael Sonnen had problems taking him down. Henderson is a former Olympic wrestler and Sonnen was an Olympic alternate.
It doesn't figure that Jones would have difficulty getting Silva down. And if he did, Silva would have to find a way to counter Jones' devastating elbows. No one Jones has fought has done much about it yet.
Stylistically, the match favors Jones.
Silva's genius is in figuring out plans and using his vast assortment of skills to win. It's hardly out of the question that he could defeat Jones, though Jones should be the favorite.
Jones has shown no more interest in fighting Silva than Silva has shown in fighting him, but Jones at least has an excuse. It's in his best interest not to be chasing smaller fighters.
Just like a potential Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match, a Jones-Silva superfight would be the richest MMA fight ever as well as a bout matching the two greatest fighters in the world, and perhaps in the sport's history.
One of White's strong suits is putting together the fights the fans want to see, though he doesn't have a perfect record in achieving it. He was unable to sign legendary heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko, which meant he wasn't able to make Emelianenko against either Randy Couture or Brock Lesnar. Both were fights the public was desperate to see.
White needs to get on it, and fast, and make Silva-Jones happen.
The worst thing that could happen to the UFC would be for the fan base to begin using those two awful words when debating whether Jones and Silva will ever fight:
White's goal over the next few months should be to excise those words from the lips of MMA fans everywhere.
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- Mixed Martial Arts
- Martial Arts
- Anderson Silva
- Jon Jones