Sunday, July 8, 2012

Champion second, martial artist first

I've said this many times before, but never was it more evidently exhibited than Saturday night. What makes Anderson Silva so great is not the fact that he is the most dominant champion in UFC history, but rather that he is a true martial artist; in other words, he is a champion second, martial artist first.

You would think that after six and a half years without a loss, which includes 16 fights in the UFC, Anderson Silva (32-4, 10 KO's 6 subs) would have a chip on his shoulder. However, on the contrary he's always remained humble and respectful towards his opponents. For the record, of those 16 UFC  fights 13 have been title defenses and that last loss was due to a disqualification.

Yet as humble as respectful as Silva has always carried himself, he was openly and uncharacteristically outspoken in the weeks leading up to his fight Saturday night. That is because his opponent Chael Sonnen (27-12, 7 KO's 4 subs), the best trash talker in MMA, pulled no punches in his vocal barrage against the champ; neither Silva's skill, country or wife were off limits. It clearly bothered Silva as he entered the octagon displaying more emotion than he's ever shown before.

Nonetheless, it didn't alter his performance at all as he continued his championship reign by defeating Sonnen in the second round via TKO due to referee stoppage after a wicked knee to the body followed up by punches. What made it even more impressive is that he did it after a first round that was dominated by Sonnen and was eerily similar to the first four rounds of their first fight.

However, if that wasn't impressive enough, after the fight when Silva could have rubbed all the trash talk in Sonnen's face and just totally stuck it to him, he didn't. Instead, in typical Anderson Silva fashion, he took the opportunity during his post fight interview to explain to the crowd that there is no animosity towards Sonnen and that what they do in the cage is for sport.

Yet, he took it even a step further when he walked over to Sonnen, extended his hand and brought him over to be part of the interview. He then spoke to the Brazilian fans in attendance in his native Portuguese and told them to show their class by applauding Sonnen and to basically forgive and forget all he had said. He then offered Sonnen an invitation to his home for a barbecue if he would like.

Sonnen, though clearly distraught, appeared caught off guard by the move and was left at a loss for words other than, "He's a true champion." What Anderson Silva did is extend martial arts etiquette in the truest and purest sense of the word; always show respect to your opponent. When he's done, Silva will probably go down as the greatest champion the UFC has ever had, but truth is he is champion second, martial artist first.

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