ROSEMONT, Ill. – Anderson Silva played the humble act at the prefight news conference prior to his middleweight title defense against Patrick Cote at UFC 90 on Saturday at Allstate Arena.
As everyone attempted to lavish praise upon him as the world's finest mixed martial artist, Silva declined to talk about it in a act of apparent humility.
On Saturday, he delivered another act that was not so becoming of an athlete of his stature.
In a lame attempt at humor, Silva made a mockery of himself, his title and his sport in one of the most bizarre matches in UFC history.
"I think I'm living in an alternate universe," a befuddled UFC president Dana White said, shaking his head. "That was bizarro world."
Silva retained the belt when Cote collapsed in agony 39 seconds into the third round as he went to throw a punch. He later said he aggravated an old knee injury and was heading to the hospital, believing he had damaged the meniscus in his right knee. The near-sellout crowd of 15,359 booed Cote roundly, but it was Silva who really deserved its wrath.
There was no fighting in the match, largely because Silva opted not to fight. On the rare occasions Silva chose to engage, he got far better of the few exchanges.
The fighters met at the center of the cage seconds before it started and bowed to each other, the first of a number of oddities in an odd fight. It was a dreadful ending to a night otherwise filled with good fights, but the man who has made so many electric moments in the UFC instead chose to play a game which no one could understand.
At the end of the first round, Silva's corner was shouting obscenities at him, urging him to fight.
But Silva kept up the antics until the end. He'd periodically engage and rake Cote with a hard shot, but for the most part would circle, dance and slither away.
After the fight, Silva at first was defiant and said he was simply executing his strategy of trying to be elusive. It was only after White admitted that he was upset and said publicly that Silva had apologized to him that Silva changed his tune.
But when Silva first spoke at the postfight news conference, he acted as if nothing unusual had occurred.
"The UFC has once again proven this is the best event in the world," Silva said. "I came in and did my job. My strategy was working."
But on this night, few were buying that weak argument. In the second round, when Cote was down, Silva offered him a hand to help him up, which Cote declined.
White explained that best.
"It was like Cote said, '[Expletive] you, we're fighting,' " White said.
Silva had never been past 4:52 of the second round in seven previous UFC fights, most of which he'd won in brutal and spectacular fashion.
"His track record in the UFC is that he annihilates people," White said.
And it seemed that he could have annihilated Cote at the time of his choosing, but he simply was opting for fun. He didn't throw a punch of consequence for nearly four minutes in the first round, but when he opened up, he rocked Cote with a shot and cut him with a knee to the forehead.
Silva landed several good kicks and a couple of punches in the second round that were clearly bothering Cote, who said he hurt his knee kicking Silva in the second.
Cote said he told his corner between rounds that his knee was bothering him, but trainer Mark DellaGrotte told him to use his hands and fight.
But Cote didn't have much of a chance. He hopped on his left foot and was preparing to throw a punch when he said the knee popped. He collapsed immediately and was shrieking in agony. Referee Herb Dean appeared confused at first, but then halted the fight and awarded Silva the technical knockout victory.
This, though, wasn't the glory-filled victory so many had expected such as the ones that Silva had recorded over the likes of UFC luminaries such as Rich Franklin (twice), Dan Henderson and Nate Marquardt, among others.
There was little glory in winning a fight in which the crowd frequently booed him and once had it laughing at him. That's especially true considering the man standing across from him had lost his first three UFC fights and who is now just a pedestrian 4-4. A guy that White was boasting as the greatest mixed martial artist he'd ever seen should do away with guys with 4-4 UFC records in short order.
That's why, after a little reflection and hearing a few sharp words from White, Silva decided he ought to apologize.
"I apologize," Silva said. "I worked hard in training to go four or five rounds. I dropped from 230 pounds to 205 and then to 185. I worked my butt off. I had a long camp preparing for the fight. I owe you guys in the media, the fans and everyone an apology. I was prepared, but it's unfortunate what happened."