Anderson Silva (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Can Anderson Silva Find Late-Career Success Inside the UFC’s Octagon?

Since his UFC debut in 2006 and in the six years that followed, Anderson Silva was unstoppable. Claiming the record for most consecutive UFC wins, “The Spider” became a household name and was long regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC until he faced Chris Weidman at UFC 162. In their first meeting, Silva suffered his first loss under the UFC banner via a second-round knockout. Many called it a fluke and disregarded Weidman’s victory. However, in a rematch at UFC 168, Weidman left with a title belt and Silva with a fractured leg. Weidman had earned a second-round TKO and Silva earned some time off.

With a fractured leg, many expected the injury to sideline Silva for months, if not years. However, two months later, Silva was shown walking down steps, indicating that he was healing well from his injury. As recovery became more promising, Silva announced his return to the Octagon and, more recently, signed a new 15-fight contract with the UFC, thereby nullifying any speculation of an impending retirement for the former middleweight champion.

Further speculation about Silva’s health came to question on Monday, though, after Silva was reportedly rushed to the hospital in Rio de Janeiro after a jiu-jitsu training session at X-Gym. Back pain had led Silva to reportedly lose feeling in his legs. Despite speculation, Silva’s camp wasted no time assuring the masses that the incident would not affect his return to the Octagon in January. The medical director of the Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission, Dr. Marcio Tannure, further indicated Silva’s pain would not “get him sidelined or even cancel the bout.” Sources indicated Silva suffered from lumbago, a common complaint among contact sport athletes.


However reassuring Silva’s camp may be about his impending return, it is important to ask whether the 39-year-old, who has gone through a significant surgery, will be able to make a successful comeback.

Many have suggested Silva hang up his gloves and walk away. His family appears to support a retirement, as Silva indicated that his wife and five children were not initially supportive of his decision to fight again. After Silva’s major leg reconstruction, who could blame them?

Despite the suggestions and preference of others, retirement does not appear in the cards for the former champion. After months of rehabilitation, Silva and team have made the impossible possible: On Jan. 31, Silva returns to resume his MMA career opposite Nick Diaz at UFC 183.

Silva’s success in returning to MMA will depend on a two things.

First, his passion for the sport has to return. It’s not unheard of to see champions and former champions feel burned out and lose passion for fighting. We have seen the same dynamics in play with former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. In Silva’s return, we will see if the passion has rekindled.

Second, Silva has to manage his ego. Prior to colliding with Weidman, Silva gained the reputation of an egotist. It was not uncommon for him to taunt his opponents and toy with them in the Octagon. At times it seemed he did not take the fight seriously. Silva was right in perceiving himself as one of the best in the world—he was almost literally untouchable—but he has to understand there are threats in the new breed of middleweights. Silva sounded promising in this respect when asked about a title bout against Weidman. He denied interest in an immediate title shot. Furthermore, sources indicate Silva has plans to work his way up to being a title contender and would like to see his teammate, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, get a shot at Weidman before he does.

Time away from the sport may have done Silva some good. If he is able to effectively manage his passion and pride, he will go down in history as the Peyton Manning of MMA, cultivating a successful late, post-injury career revival.