GSP & Anderson Silva: Will we ever see them in the UFC again?
JAN 07, 2014 5:08p ET
"Any update on Anderson?"
"Any news on Georges?"
Given how frequently media members check on the status of retired former Strikeforce champion Nick Diaz, UFC President Dana White better get used to hearing those questions - or some variation of those inquiries - as they are going to be asked before and after most UFC events this year.
Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre are two of the most decorated champions in UFC history - fighters that ruled their respective weight classes for long stretches of time that have uncertain futures in the Octagon as 2014 kicks off.
Following his narrow and disputed victory over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167, St-Pierre told Joe Rogan that he needed to step away from the sport for a while to deal with some personal issues. A few weeks later, the French-Canadian superstar was on a conference call, explaining that he was vacating his title and going on sabbatical, giving his body and mind a break from the sport in order to deal with the aforementioned personal issues and live a 'normal life' for a while.
“In a sport with no guarantees, it's impossible to definitively say he will never return, but there aren't a lot of reasons for the 32-year-old welterweight standout to continue his fighting career at this point.”
Silva's exit from the top of the middleweight division came six months early, when the Brazilian legend was caught with his hands down by unbeaten New Yorker Chris Weidman at UFC 162. Late last month when the two squared off for a second time, the new champion once again showed his dominance, and the former titleholder suffered a gruesome broken leg when Weidman checked Silva's kick.
With surgery already in the rearview mirror and a titanium rod now in his left leg, a timetable for Silva's return to training has been sketched out at anywhere between three and nine months, but given his age (he'll be 39 in April) and the illustrious career he's already enjoyed, many are wondering if 'The Spider' will look to make a return to the Octagon or simply hang up his four-ounce gloves for good.
Given that neither man has definitely said whether they plan on returning or not, the truth is that no one knows for sure what will happen with these two iconic champions at this moment.
But that won't stop us from speculating.
Au revoir, Georges
Of the two, St-Pierre seems the least likely to return.
In a sport with no guarantees, it's impossible to definitively say he will never return, but there aren't a lot of reasons for the 32-year-old welterweight standout to continue his fighting career at this point.
Despite the controversy over the outcome of his last fight, St-Pierre's resume still shows a victory over Hendricks and another successful title defense to his credit, which allowed him to walk away when he was still on top. That's an ending not many athletes get to enjoy, and it looked like the window of opportunity for St-Pierre to get out at that point was closing.
Carlos Condit dropped him with a headkick in their championship unification fight at UFC 154 in November 2012, and Hendricks left him covered in bruises following their showdown at UFC 167 this past November. While he managed to escape both encounters - and a fight with Diaz between the two - with the welterweight strap still around his waist, the gap between St-Pierre and those at the top of the list of challengers appeared to be getting increasingly narrow with each passing fight.
Most observers can see that GSP hasn't been the same since his knee surgery.
According to FightMetric, St-Pierre was 3-for-6 in takedowns against Hendricks, and a combined 16-for-24 against Diaz and Condit. By comparison, in his three fights prior to going under the knife, 'Rush' completed 17-of-23 takedown attempts against Jake Shields, Josh Koscheck, and Dan Hardy.
“ To borrow a phrase from White, St-Pierre has 'F-You Money,' so it's not as if he needs to return to the Octagon in order to pay his bills in the future.”
Though he was able to always find a way to emerge victorious, the amount of punishment St-Pierre has taken over his last three fights has been greater than anything he incurred prior to the injury, when he was running up winning round after winning round. Following the fight with Hendricks, he talked about the damage he's accumulated over his career and not remembering pieces of the contest, two things that were obvious factors in his decision to walk away and will be heavy considerations whenever he sits down to think about a potential return.
Money isn't a concern. To borrow a phrase from White, St-Pierre has 'F-You Money,' so it's not as if he needs to return to the Octagon in order to pay his bills in the future. Additionally, there are alternative opportunities that await him outside of the cage.
He'll make his major motion picture debut this April as 'Batroc the Leaper' in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, after having done a handful of smaller films in the past, and could very well make the transition to being an action star going forward. If Randy Couture can carve out a nice little niche playing a supporting role in a new Expendables flick every other year, St-Pierre should be able to do just fine going forward.
The biggest factor, however, is that it seems like the love of the sport and the drive to be the best that was once so easy to see in St-Pierre has faded.
Once the most gracious and willing interview subject, he started voicing his frustrations with the process of headlining shows and annoyance with the constant media requests over the last year. Where he used to be excitable and noticeably giddy as his fight drew closer, St-Pierre now seems eager to get the experience over with so he can return to Montreal and escape the cameras and constant barrage of questions.
Though his passion for martial arts remains, his drive to continually push his body and put himself through the rigors of training camp and everything else that accompanies a 'Georges St-Pierre Fight' appears to have waned.
If it returns, so too might St-Pierre, but don't count on it.
Will Anderson Silva return?
In a word, yes.
While there is nothing concrete to support that statement, the consensus within the fight community and early chatter out of his camp suggest that 'The Spider' will fight again in the future.
Monday, FOXSports.com's Marc Raimondi relayed the story of the injured former middleweight champion assuring his coach and mentor Pedro Rizzo, "I will be back," which falls in line with the assertion his manager, Jorge Guimaraes, gave TMZ about the all-time great eventually returning.
Given how dominant Silva was, it's hard to envision him going out on consecutive losses and a broken leg. As much as he was talking openly about UFC 168 potentially being the final fight of his career, retirement has been a topic of conversation with Silva was a few years now, and the Brazilian legend continued to turn up and deliver incredible performances.
Although St-Pierre's exit wasn't a grand send-off after a dominant victory, it trumps what current stands as the last image of Silva in the UFC cage, and it's highly unlikely that the man widely considered to be the greatest fighter in the history of this sport opts to end his career on such a painful and somber note.
“It may take some time, but eventually, Anderson Silva will once again let everyone know, "I back."”
Like St-Pierre, Silva has opportunities waiting for him outside of the cage once he decides to walk away for good, but unlike his fellow long-reigning champion, you get the feeling like the 38-year-old has some unfinished business to take care of before that time comes.
With how frequently the UFC travels to Brazil, a return in late 2014 or early 2015 on home soil feels inevitable, and like a major pay-per-view event waiting to happen, regardless of whom Silva were to face.
After so many years where the outcome of his fights seemed like a foregone conclusion, there are new questions hovering around Silva for the first time in years, and seeing him return to answer those questions - both for his own piece of mind and for the fans - is easy to envision.
While a run up the rankings to another title shot is likely out of the question as long as Weidman is in possession of the middleweight strap, there are interesting match-ups out there for Silva at both 185 and 205 pounds should he decide to come back, and more so than the reserved St-Pierre, the charismatic showman Silva seems like the type that wants the grand exit on his own terms after yet another brilliant performance.
His last appearance in the cage was anything but, and for that reason, no one should be surprised to see 'The Spider' come back to the UFC.
It may take some time, but eventually, Anderson Silva will once again let everyone know, "I back."