PHILADELPHIA – Hours after the most electrifying domination in a career filled with them, deep in a back hallway of the Wachovia Center, Anderson Silva was waiting for Dana White. Silva is the UFC's middleweight (185-pound) champion but Saturday he boldly moved up 20 pounds and in a jaw-dropping exhibition, brutalized Forrest Griffin, who just nine months ago was the light heavyweight (205) title holder.
Silva knocked Griffin down twice, offered a hand to help him up once and then promptly floored him again for good at 3:23 of the first round of UFC 101. Most remarkably, he did it with a punch he threw while backpedaling.
It was a complete annihilation. Griffin failed to land a single punch and when he came to his senses, he sprung up and ran from the octagon, trying to push through a doctor's examination.
"He might be in Georgia by now, he ran out and I haven't seen him since," White, the UFC president, joked.
That Silva could move up a weight class and not just win, but destroy with power, was a game-changing and perhaps UFC-altering moment. That’s what Silva’s team wanted to discuss with White.
With his arm wrapped around White’s shoulder, one of Silva’s assistants leaned in and delivered a proposition. “Spider” Silva would move permanently to light heavyweight, even if it meant the unorthodox move of giving up his middleweight belt.
“I can do that,” White smiled, a bit stunned. “I like that. We can do that.”
Moments later, White also spoke with Silva’s manager Ed Soares. White initially characterized the conversation to Yahoo! Sports as similar in nature to that with the assistant. However, Soares said later that while Silva wants to fight at 205, he wouldn’t be willing to vacate the middleweight belt.
"I'd let him," White said later, sitting in his quiet dressing room. "We'd put [the middleweight title] up for grabs."
The hour was late and everyone's excitement was still high. Perhaps plans and goals change by morning, so White didn't know what to say officially. This was still just hurried talk. He knew this much though, as a promoter there are more blockbuster fights for Silva at 205 than 185, where he's beaten everyone of note.
Silva's next title defense was supposed to be against Dan Henderson, who Silva savagely choked out in March 2008.
"Who knows," White said, wheels already spinning. "We'll see what happens. In the talks I've had with Anderson, he wants to take on the best in the world. He's the most talented fighter in the world, the best pound for pound fighter and it's a joke to say anyone else is. And he wants to continue to prove [it]."
White thought for a moment.
"He would jump in that mix [at the top of the light heavyweight division]," White said. "You've got Rashad [Evans], you've got Rampage [Jackson], [Lyoto] Machida is the champion. And Tito [Ortiz] is in the mix now."
If Silva did vacate the middleweight title to move up full time, the ironic thing is that he claims it wouldn't be to pursue the light heavyweight belt. At least as long as it was held by Machida, a fellow Brazilian and training partner.
"Lyoto is my friend, he is my brother and there is no way that fight will ever happen," Silva said.
White, coveting a clash between two men who are both unbeaten in UFC competition, brushes that talk aside.
"I'll make it happen," White said winking his eye. "It's not even about money. It's about proving you're the best, it's about securing your place in history. It's about putting on a super fight that fans want to see.
"I'm all about making big fights that fans want to see."
Saturday was one of those fights. Silva was motivated by criticism that his last two fights – both victories mind you ¬– were dull, so he gladly moved up to take on a dangerous Griffin, who was known for his attack dog style.
It was intriguing, at least until Silva started toying with Griffin. He knocked Griffin down at will, dared him to connect with a punch, challenged him to be as tough as his reputation and then finally just finished him.
Coming in there was a "Rocky" element to the fight, Griffin the heavy underdog with the Philly crowd firmly behind him and booing Silva. By the end, Griffin was gone and Silva was being cheered. It was the recognition of brilliance overcoming any easy Hollywood storylines.
"He wants to be involved in the biggest fights we can put together," Soares said.
The fact Silva took this fight is a testament to that. The Brazilian is 25-4 overall and has won all 10 of his fights in the UFC. At age 34, he could've sat at middleweight and potentially won 10 more, making nice money with relatively little risk in a division he's been untouchable in.
That isn't him though. Not even close.
So not long after stunning the sport with a legendary performance, there he and his manager were, trying to force a back-hall huddle with the UFC kingmaker. Move Silva to light heavyweight for good, they suggested to White.
With nothing left to prove at middleweight, Anderson Silva now wants to lay waste to a whole new division of the UFC. Maybe he doesn't need a belt to prove a thing.
- Anderson Silva
- Dana White
- Forrest Griffin