Despite long reign of dominance, Anderson Silva remains a mystery

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

LAS VEGAS – Anderson Silva was scheduled to do a brief workout for the public, like a number of his peers, on a blisteringly hot summer afternoon in a night club near the pool at Wynn Las Vegas.

He was already several minutes late when the DJ announced the UFC middleweight champion's arrival. All eyes turned toward the door facing the pool.

No Silva.

A few more minutes passed, and then the Jadakiss song, "The Champ is Here," began to play. Video reporters and camera people scurried from their perch on the right of the stage, where they had been conducting interviews, to the left.

All of the other fighters had met first with writers on that left side, then moved over to the right to chat with the video reporters, but not Silva.

As the champ's perquisite, he would hold one session with the media, not two.

A crowd gathered by the door, and cameras were ready, but even after several repeats of the chorus, it was obvious that the champ wasn't here, not yet.

Several more minutes passed. Ronaldo, the Brazilian soccer legend and a close confidante of the champ's, arrived inconspicuously and slipped into a corner perch near the stage, a sign that the champ was in the vicinity.

Finally, a wave of very large men wearing black T-shirts with gold and white lettering appeared in the doorway. Excitement in the room picked up. In the middle of that group of men was Silva, the UFC's middleweight champion and, arguably, the greatest mixed martial arts fighter who ever drew breath.

Silva was there to promote his title defense on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden against Chris Weidman in the main event of UFC 162.

He did it, as he has his entire career, his way. Each of the other fighters who arrived to work out for the media and a small gathering of fans walked in with a small group, shadow boxed or stretched with one coach, perhaps fired off a few practice kicks, and then talked with the media. It was no production.

[Related: Weidman has dealt with bigger problems than Silva ]

Only former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar received much notice from the crowd, garnering a smattering of applause.

Silva arrived with an entourage of at least 25, mostly members of his fight team and a slew of friends and assistants. The fighters took to the stage to put on a workout together, pairing off in groups of two. It looked like a bad synchronized swimming team.

Silva moved from fighter to fighter, giving each teammate time in the spotlight. He'd hit mitts with one, practice kicks with someone else, go through some jiu-jitsu moves with yet a different person.

When the workout was concluded, he snatched an iPad from a girl who could have been no more than 6 or 7. He spun the iPad on his finger for about 20 seconds, as if it were a basketball. Then, he shook hands with the girl's brother, jokingly not releasing his grip when the boy tried several times to walk away.

He was beaming throughout, joking frequently and, as usual, was difficult to understand or figure.

He laughed when pressed about all the UFC fighters who are predicting that Weidman will end his seven-year reign on Saturday.

Asked how long he had been aware of Weidman as a potential challenger – Weidman's been the No. 1 contender for his belt for a week short of a year – Silva shrugged.

"Not too much," he said. "But it's good. I changed the life of Chris Weidman, because Weidman will fight for the belt. It's good."

He wouldn't surrender much of anything, as usual, other than assuring the group of journalists and UFC employees who hung on his every word that he isn't afraid.

"A fight is a fight," he said.

Earlier, during a conference call he had been dismissive of welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, because St-Pierre hasn't seemed interested in meeting him in a super fight.

His former rival, Chael Sonnen, interviewed Silva on Fuel TV's "UFC Tonight," and asked him his thoughts about St-Pierre picking Weidman.

"Who?" Silva asked mockingly, causing Sonnen and co-host Kenny Florian to break out in laughter.

After his workout – which ended with the group in a circle, the men's arms locked on each other's shoulders, chanting in Portuguese – he reiterated his desire to face long over-the-hill boxer Roy Jones Jr.

He appeared not to realize that it would be a totally asinine pairing, whether it was a boxing match or an MMA fight. The Jones that Silva needs to fight, should he defeat Weidman, is UFC light heavyweight champion Jon, not former boxing light heavyweight champion Roy.

Silva kept saying a Roy Jones fight would be good for him, though he never would explain why. Later, UFC president Dana White said that Roy Jones was coming to Las Vegas for the fight and that they "would talk."

In a text message to Yahoo! Sports, Roy Jones replied, "Yes," when asked if he were going to talk to White about fighting in the UFC.

White is savvy enough to know that a Silva-Jones match in any context is unwise and not good business. He got to see that first-hand in 2010 with the farcical James Toney-Randy Couture fight. A boxer doesn't belong in a fight with an MMA champion and an MMA fighter doesn't belong in the ring with a boxing champion, which the Toney-Couture fight conclusively proved.

Earlier in the week, meeting with a group of Las Vegas-based reporters, White may have inadvertently told the truth about what is going on – or not going on – with a potential Silva-Roy Jones fight when he was discussing how Silva likes to fool with the media.

"He loves to [expletive] with you guys," White said. "He says [expletive] to see what will happen."

It was kind of like on the conference call, when he responded to a question by saying he didn't have White's number.

White said that was an example of Silva messing with the media, and of being one of the many fighters who are put off by White's brutal honesty with the media.

"There are a lot of fighters who hate that I tell you guys [in the media] everything," White said. "He's one of them."

Silva can be confounding, and though he's one of the UFC's biggest stars, he's not nearly as big as he should be in the U.S. He's massive in Brazil, where he has a slew of blue-chip sponsors, but he doesn't have the same cachet in the U.S.

That's by choice, as Silva has been as successful at dodging media inquiries into his personal life over the past seven-plus years as he has been battering each of his opponents.

He's a mystery, to White, to the media and, most significantly, to his opponents.

He's 38 and continues to roll on, showing no signs of aging or decline. Though many of his peers have predicted Weidman to win, they've also been just as lavish in their praise of his reign as could be.

"It's amazing, it really is, what he's done and how he's done it," Edgar said. "You don't hear that stuff happening in fight sports. You have to take your hat off to him. There are so many ways to lose: Injuries, getting bored as a champion, and just the fact that you could get hit with a big punch, get hit with a submission, you have a bad weight cut, you get sick.

"It could be anything. It could be millions of things, so to stay perfect like that, it's incredible."

He's perfect in the UFC, winning all 16 of his bouts since he joined the promotion in 2006. He has 17 knockdowns, most in UFC history. He has 11 wins by knockout, almost a UFC record. His 16 wins are tied for the second most in UFC history.

He's beaten strikers, wrestlers and jiu-jitsu players. He's moved up in weight and knocked out ex-light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin with a jab thrown while moving backward.

There is little more to prove, yet he's signed a 10-fight contract that will keep him around for at least four or five years longer.

While we know little about what makes him tick, or what motivates him, there is one thing we know without question:

When Silva fights, incredible things happen.

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