The philosophy of "The Spider"

July 2, 2013

In a day and age where fans are always waiting for the next incendiary comment to be made and athletes are wont to oblige, Anderson Silva has mastered the art of under-selling things.

Rather than pouring gasoline onto fires with the things he says, the UFC middleweight champion throws just enough water on them to stifle their heat and power, but never enough to put them out completely. The orange glow of the embers lingers, an invitation for journalists and fans to either stoke the fire or walk away and let the story burn out.

When asked about the challenges Chris Weidman brings to the table during a lunch with local media Monday in Burbank, California, Silva peddled off his impending opponent as simply the next man in line.

“There’s not really much to be said,” Silva said through translator Derek Lee. “He’s a guy that has fought his way up the rankings and he’s having his shot at the belt, just like I had my shot. Now is his turn. There’s really not much to be said. Now is his chance.”

That’s certain one way of looking at this weekend’s middleweight title challenger. While all of what Silva said is perfectly correct, it’s the most stripped down assessment of Weidman possible, and falls short of being even an average sales pitch for the upcoming UFC 162 pay-per-view.

As much as the over-the-top, hard sell antics of Silva’s former nemesis Chael Sonnen have exceeded their expiry date with many, at least “The Gangster from West Linn” is out there drumming up interest in the pugilistic exhibition that’s about to ensue. They way Silva sells it, your $55 let’s you watch him take on a mandatory challenger that has very little to offer once the cage door closes.

It’s not just his opponent on Saturday night that he soft peddles either.

During last week’s UFC 162 media conference call, Silva named BJ Penn as his selection as the greatest fighter in the history of the sport, an honor many bestow upon the UFC middleweight champion himself. Alongside Penn, the Brazilian tabbed Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, and Royce Gracie as the next three on his list.

Monday afternoon, the man who has gone 16-0 while re-writing the UFC record book was asked where he stands in the pantheon of greats to enter the Octagon, and in typical fashion, Silva seriously downplayed his place amongst the iconic figures in the organization’s history.

“I think I’m getting there,” he said. “I’m getting to that level of being thrown in there with the Chuck Liddell’s, Randy Couture, Royce Gracie, Tank Abbott, Shamrock – those guys that really built the sport, the guys that made a difference when the sport needed it. I’m building to come to that level.”

Asked why he included Abbott, who went 8-10 in his UFC career, Silva said it’s about more than just wins and losses.

“You can’t deny what they’ve done for the sport,” he said of the list of fighters he previously mentioned. “Not only Tank Abbott, but Tito (Ortiz) and Chuck (Liddell) and BJ (Penn) and all those guys that came up. Sometimes maybe people forget about that – the newer guys coming in forget about that, and forget about what kind of road was paved by those guys.”

Silva, of course, is one of the people blazing a trail for the next generation; a fighter the twentysomethings currently storming the UFC roster looked up to in their developmental years, and hold out as their Liddell, their Ortiz, or their Penn.

He won’t ever say that about himself though, nor does he have to – there are plenty of others quick to chronicle his accomplishments and speak to his greatness, and therein lies the sly little wink that seems to accompany many of Silva’s “selling things short” comments.

Why fan the flames when you don’t have to?

Why give credence to the notion that the man you’re about to share the cage with is the most dangerous adversary you’ve faced in years?

Silva has figured out that at this point in his career, with his resume and extensive list of accomplishments, there is no need. Everything he says is going to be interpreted a dozen different ways by a hundred different people, so why not just drop something simple and watch what happens.

Besides, when just about everyone already views you as the greatest fighter of all-time, is there really anything left to be said?