Anderson Silva fears old age so much that he's willing to risk more injury or a bum rep for the siren song the UFC is singing.
The 39-year-old Brazilian's snapped shinbones healed quickly after their run-in with Chris Weidman at UFC 168. According to Dana White, Silva's ready for a much-anticipated comeback.
With all the heavy breathing over his return, short-sightedness is easy to fall into. In reality, few options could be worse than risking the memory of a decade of dominance. A Silva comeback is exciting, but only if he comes back at the same level that he left at. That requires caution and more time than 14 months, if necessary.
Let's say the Spider spins back into the octagon and smashes the competition. For the next year or two, he’ll monopolize the media and rewire the middleweight class. We’d be back to square one—Silva reigning as champion again with fans slobbering over a superfight possibility with Jon Jones or Georges St. Pierre (whose return is also in question).
That shattered leg allowed Silva to implement the best tactic in showbiz: leave on a high note. He'll be older and lacking one year's worth of fights on a shattered leg. Like all greats, he'll start to lose to younger, tougher men. We'll see the slow decline, accompanied by the inevitable, "Oh, if only Silva had just stayed out of the Octagon longer after he broke his leg!"
The subconscious is a cruel thing after knockouts and broken bones. Injuries change fighters. Nobody could blame Silva for, say, fearing hard leg kicks. Maybe he'll want to wrestle more—or less—or keep his hands up for a more traditional, less exciting stand-up style. We want to see the same old Silva, naturally, but he needs to give the new Silva more time to get used to fighting in the old Silva way.
Caution is important for both Silva and the UFC. If they feed him tuneups, we'll cry about it. If they give him a Weidman rematch too soon and he loses, we'll cry about that too. If he hustles his red carpet roll-out back into the fight game, he could end up injured again and with his reputation tarnished by the inevitable losses or the justifiable change in fighting style.
Seeing Silva back will be a fun storyline. We just need to make sure we get the man back entirely, not some shadow twisted by an injury.