USA TODAY: Even in defeat, ex-UFC champ Anderson Silva still holds all the cards


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anderson-silva-53.jpg(This story appeared in today’s edition of USA TODAY.)

The way it normally works in the fight business, the person who gets knocked out shows up at the press conference later, trying to convince the promoter, the media and the fans that he deserves a rematch.

Not the other way around.

But then, there was nothing normal about the main event of UFC 162 in Las Vegas, so why should the immediate aftermath be different?

All it took was one left hook from challenger Chris Weidman (10-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) to put an end to Anderson Silva‘s (33-5 MMA, 16-1 UFC) clowning around in the cage, and with it his record-breaking reign as UFC middleweight champion.

The sweat wasn’t even dry on the canvas when the rematch talk started, but leave it to the mercurial Silva to go sprinting down the road less traveled at every opportunity.

“I don’t fight anymore for the belt,” Silva said moments after suffering his first loss in more than seven years, and the only knockout loss of his 16-year career. “I’m tired. I’ve fought for a long time. My (plan) for the belt is finished tonight. Chris is the new champion.”

Not exactly what you expect to hear from the former champ whose legendary exploits had already guaranteed him an immediate rematch in the event of a loss.

But Silva has always been unpredictable, which is why it’s hard to know how seriously to take his professed disinterest in what would almost certainly be a hugely profitable rematch with Weidman, not to mention a shot at redemption after an embarrassing end to his 16-fight UFC win streak.

One person who’s not buying it is UFC President Dana White, who insists that no matter what Silva said publicly, he’d eventually “want to redeem himself.”

“He doesn’t remember how to lose,” White says. “It’s been too long since he lost. This one’s going to sink in a few days after.”

White hopes so anyway, since the rematch would be money in the bank for the UFC, and at a time when it could use a few guaranteed blockbusters in the pay-per-view lineup.

In case there was any doubt as to how important Silva is to the sport of MMA and the UFC in particular, this ought to erase it. Even when he loses his belt, he doesn’t lose much clout. He still ends up in the driver’s seat somehow, with White all but pleading with him to accept the offer of a rematch and the new champion needing one to prove that the win was no fluke.

Will Silva take the fight? Probably. He usually comes around to White’s way of thinking sooner or later, and his stance already seemed to be softening by the time the post-fight press conference ended.

Maybe what he really wants is to hear us beg first, to hear us admit we still need and want him around, which we do.

Silva might be tired of this sport, at least right now, but if the clamor for an immediate rematch with Weidman tells us anything, it’s that the sport is far from tired of him.

For complete coverage of UFC 162, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.

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