From April of 2006 to July of 2013 Anderson Silva fought 18 times and won all of them. He also strung together a historically-long reign as middleweight world champion within that timeframe.
Then, on July 6, 2013, Chris Weidman knocked Silva out and took his belt. The following December he was beaten up badly by Weidman, once more, then had his leg broken in two when the new champion checked a kick with his own knee.
Silva was nearing 40 and had a long road ahead of him to even walk again. On the positive side, his legacy as one of, if not the best fighter in history, was already cemented.
Still, he worked on through rehab, determined to fight on, and made a successful return in Jan. 0f 2015.
Silva beat Nick Diaz by decision and greeted members of the media inside the MGM Grand, post-fight, with smiles. For now, it was all relief.
This was shortly before it would become known that Silva tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs before the fight, allowed to fight by the Nevada commission, then tested positive post-fight, and had the win turned into a No Contest.
Before that mess would begin to unfurl in the next few days, Silva proudly owned the night and spoke of an uncertain future. He had accomplished his goal of coming back from catastrophic injury, and it seemed like the perfect capstone to a legendary career.
Still, he wouldn’t rule-out fighting on, into middle-age. The thing was, Silva told us, his family really wanted him to retire.
Silva described a son coming to him and practically begging the fighter to hang up his gloves. After nearly 20-straight years of professional fighting, many injuries and lots of lost time, Silva’s family seemed to want less "Spider and more Anderson.
Then, the PED scandal hit and Silva seemed resolute to not just fight the commission’s accusations and determinations, but also to continue to fight in the UFC. He lost the battle with the commission, after offering ridiculous excuses for how he could have gotten PEDS in his system, but Silva seemed suddenly to have made his mind up about continuing to fight in the cage.
He had his fighter’s license suspended, sat out a year but signed on to fight Michael Bisping before the suspension was up. On Feb. 27. the two middleweights will lock-up in London.
After an inspiring comeback and victory, Silva seemed at least open to the idea of walking off into the sunset and allowing his family to sigh in relief. Once the athletic commission and the world put him on his heels, however, he dug in and resolved to fight-on.
But what of his family? How did he break the news to them and what rationale did he offer them for why a wealthy, aging fighter with a secured legacy would fight on in a brutal sport into his 40’s?
"I sat down with my family and explained to them that, as long as I’m physically good and happy doing it, then I’m going to continue to fight," Silva told media members assembled for an open workout in Los Angeles, last week.
Not only is Silva back, because he loves fighting, and maybe because he has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, he claims that he’s in it for the long haul. "I think five more years. Three years. I don’t know," he answered, when asked how much longer he thought he’d fight, professionally.
"This is the problem. I enjoy fighting but my family says "stop, no." But, I think three more years."
So, he explained things to his family, but it surely didn’t change how they felt and what they wanted. When told that he didn’t have anything left to prove in the sport of MMA, Silva replied, "I know."
Chances are, he’s heard that, before – from his loved ones. Remember those t-shirts made for Silva emblazoned with "Anderson Knows," to emulate the old Bo Jackson slogan – "Bo knows"?
Anderson knows that he doesn’t have anything to prove. He probably knows that he isn’t, couldn’t be, as sharp as he was in his prime.
He knows that he’ll take more damage, in camps and in fights, by continuing to fight. He knows that his family misses him a great deal when he spends weeks and months focused on an opponent and not as much on them.
He knows. But, they also know that he is a fighter, and that fighters fight.
They fight because they love it, because they’re great at it, because it is simply what they do and so much of who they are. Forty years old is ancient for a fighter, but it’s young for a man.
So it must be difficult for a young man to separate himself from a core identity. And, Silva’s family likely knows this.
So, he says, they support him, if also plead with him. Silva says his past year has been filled with support, love and hard work.
"A lot of training, a lot of love from my friends and family," he said.
"I’m just excited to come back and be able to do something I love."
We know. Silva’s passion for fighting has always showed through in his bouts.
Because of that, we’re not exactly tired of seeing him fight, either.