There are times I feel bad for MMA fans new to the sport who only know fighters like Fedor Emelianenko for what they’ve done in the past twelve months rather than the past twelve years. Another prime example of ignorance being anything but bliss is in the case of Wanderlei Silva, a genuine legend whose best days are behind him with calls for his retirement based on his losing record as of late.

This weekend Silva will face Cung Le at UFC 139 and, if he loses he’ll likely be yanked from the cage like an underperforming entertainer on stage at the Apollo Theater. If such a scenario plays out it will mark a sad day as the sport will have grown ever closer to becoming Mixed Martial Arts minus “The Axe Murderer”.

Personally, I would have no problem with Silva being given another shot in the Octagon if he keeps it competitive and doesn’t end up on his back a minute into the match-up, as his record might stink over the past five years but you also have to consider who has beaten him – Mirko Filipovic, Dan Henderson, Quinton Jackson, Rich Franklin, and Chuck Liddell. With the exception of Chris Leben, Silva has fallen to elite talent who in many cases were larger than him, and even in terms of “The Crippler” there are few men he couldn’t blast in the chin and not render into a puddle of goo.

On the flipside, if Le knocks the affable Brazilian into next week I’d be equally okay with the 35-year old being forced to either hang his gloves up for good by Zuffa or continue to risk his legacy by fighting on smaller shows or in Japan. I certainly want to see Silva continue his career but at some point his long-term health has to be considered, and while his knockout losses are spread out over a few years it’s more a manner of how he’s been crushed concerning me. We’re not talking about a situation where he’s gotten clipped then pounded on until the referee jumps in – we’re talking pure devastation involving a complete lack of consciousness. In fact, Zuffa should give him a job upstairs helping with the UFC’s Brazilian expansion if need be so long as they simply don’t give him another fight.

Regardless, rather than thinking of him as a glass-jawed joke, when things are said done I sincerely hope people remember Silva for the fighter he started out as and remained throughout the years even when his body failed him: A humble, hard-working individual who always made time for fans and was considered to be one of the nicest stars in the business, and a fearless, formidable striker with a career highlight reel full of him flattening opponents. MMA has never seen a competitor like Silva and never will again. Remember that when you tune in Saturday night for his fight, and rather than “ooh” or “ahh” if Le beats him in highlight reel fashion, take a moment to quietly reflect on what he’s meant to the sport.

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