Why Anderson Silva can't be counted out just yet

Yahoo Sports
Anderson Silva's gruesome leg injury at UFC 168 left MMA fans in attendance in shock. (Getty)
Anderson Silva's gruesome leg injury at UFC 168 left MMA fans in attendance in shock. (Getty)

LAS VEGAS – Imagine for a moment that, instead of summoning all of his will and courage to get to his feet while being pummeled by Alistair Overeem, Travis Browne had a complete tear of all of the ligaments in his knee during their fight last year at the TD Garden in Boston.

Instead of rallying to win a bout that he was literally a second or two away from losing, the torn knee would have ended the fight and Overeem would have gotten the victory.

Browne wouldn't be on the verge of a title shot and wouldn't be developing a reputation as one of the most feared men in the sport of mixed martial arts.

As Browne was covering up and taking punches from Overeem, it looked like he was about to lose. But Browne rallied to his feet and scored one of the most unlikely wins in UFC history, setting him down the road toward stardom.

That very moment is the exact reason why it's impossible to dismiss Anderson Silva when he says he wants to return to the top of the UFC's middleweight division.

Yes, Chris Weidman knocked Silva out when Silva left his hands at his side and offered his chin as a target at UFC 162.

And yes, Weidman was having his way with Silva in the rematch at UFC 168 in December, until the leg kick that snapped the bones in the bottom of Silva's left leg.

As Silva lay on the mat shrieking in pain before an eerily silent crowd at the MGM Grand Garden, it seemed plainly obvious that his legendary career had come to an end.

Within a few hours, Silva was on an operating table, having a rod inserted into his leg.

UFC president Dana White visited Silva the next day in the hospital and, even then, Silva was optimistic that he would return.

"He was in pain, still, but he was talking about fighting even then," White said.

Now, just a bit more than two weeks after the gruesome injury, Silva is not only speaking of returning, but he's talking about another match with Weidman.

In an interview with Brazilian television network Globo, Silva said he felt he would have won the fight had it continued.

To many, his position seems ludicrous. Weidman nearly knocked him out with a right hook in the first round. Silva wasn't landing his punches. Weidman seemed in total control until the injury.

But then, as Browne was hunched over along the cage in Boston, arms protecting his head from Overeem's blows, he looked like he was done. You could have gotten some pretty long odds at that point that he'd not only come back to knock out Overeem, but to also then blow out veteran Josh Barnett.

This isn't to say that Silva is going to return and simply reclaim his old belt. Until there is evidence to the contrary, it's obvious that at this stage of their careers, Weidman is the better fighter.

Silva will be 39 in April, and he'll have to fight his way back up to the top when he returns. He's not going to be granted a title shot right away.

But in the interview with Globo, Silva made a point that had to put a huge grin on White's face.

"I just want to do what I do," Silva told Globo. "It doesn't matter if it's for the title or not. I want to do what I do well."

Silva is one of the top earners in the history of the UFC, but he's motivated by more than just money, so as unlikely as it seemed when his leg was broken and he was overcome by pain in the cage, he just may return.

High-level athletes have the kind of pride that drives them to achieve things that others simply can't.

If Silva chooses to return, he may never again be the UFC middleweight champion, but it's a better sport just having him a part of it.

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