Is UFC champ Anderson Silva the best fighter we never really knew?


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anderson-silva-42.jpgI was almost willing to believe it when UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva insisted on Tuesday’s UFC 162 media call that he hadn’t actually placed that mysterious phone call to UFC President Dana White following Jon Jones‘ last light heavyweight title defense.

I wanted to believe it, maybe because I suspected that it wouldn’t be the first time White has twisted private conversations with fighters to suit his own needs, or even invented them out of thin air.

From Silva’s phone call to Anthony Pettis‘ text message to Georges St-Pierre‘s backroom promise to put an epic beating on Nick Diaz, it sure seems like a lot of what we hear through the Dana White news service conveniently falls into the category of “Things That Would Make Dana White’s Job Easier.”

But then Silva lost me, right after he explained that “everyone knows” he didn’t really call White in the first place.

“I don’t even have his phone number, personally,” Silva said. “So no, I didn’t speak to him.”

Hold up a second. You’re telling me that man who has been UFC middleweight champion for the better part of the last seven years doesn’t have the UFC president’s phone number? And, what, he couldn’t even locate it if he wanted to? There’s just no way he could have possibly made that call?

Sorry, Anderson, but no one’s buying that. Just like they didn’t buy it when you tried to pass Steven Seagal off as a revered mentor and the teacher of kicks. Just like they didn’t buy it when you toyed with a series of opponents and then tried to act like you weren’t doing it on purpose.

That’s the thing about Silva, who is more or less universally regarded as the greatest pound-for-pound fighter MMA has seen at this point. In the cage, we understand him. We know who he is and what he’s capable of. Even when he’s screwing with us, as he did against Patrick Cote and Thales Leites and Demian Maia, it’s still kind of incredible. That gets added to our understanding of Silva the fighter, and in a way it all starts to make sense.

We can’t necessarily say the same for Silva the person. He’s more like a vapor. You reach out to touch him, to try and put your hand on something that feels real or tangible or consistent, and you get nothing. He’s the best fighter we can’t even begin to understand, in part because he makes it so difficult.

Some of that might be the language barrier (though if you believe Chael Sonnen, Silva’s been speaking the King’s English for years now). Then again, other foreign fighters don’t seem to have the same identity crisis. Junior dos Santos comes through loud and clear when speaking in his native Portuguese (it helps that he has a great translator and manager in Ana Claudia Guedes). Even Fedor Emelianenko managed to convey some personality via terse Russian quips from behind an exterior so placid you could never be sure whether he was unnervingly calm or just really, really bored.

But Silva? He’s the one who stays just out of reach. It’s tough to tell how seriously he expects us to take him, which in turn makes us wonder whether we’re in on his jokes or the butt of them. Claiming that he doesn’t have Dana White’s digits or that he learned the front kick from an early 90s action movie star might be harmless fun to him, but it also makes it hard to know whether we’re supposed to take him seriously when he talks about how badly he wants to fight Roy Jones Jr.

White has compared his dealings with Silva to attempts to negotiate with “an artist.” By that we can assume he means it’s difficult, though not in the way most fighters are difficult. That makes sense, because Silva clearly isn’t like most fighters. We know that much just from his body of work. When we see him makes fools out of contenders and former champs alike, we know what he can do. When he screws around in interviews, we also know what he won’t. What I wonder is, once he’s gone from our sport and only his legacy as an all-time great in the cage remains, will we feel like we ever knew anything else about him?

For more on UFC 162, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

(Pictured: Anderson Silva)

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