(Michael Jordan and UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva)
By Elias Cepeda
My friend Mike Chiappetta has an insightful article out today at MMA Fighting, comparing current MMA pound for pound king Anderson Silva with, in my opinion, the most competitive athlete we’ve ever seen - Michael Jordan.
Last week Anderson Silva’s friend and former training partner, middleweight contender, Mark Munoz said he wanted a shot at the 185lb belt - which Silva owns. For Munoz, it is a natural progression after four straight impressive wins. But for Silva, it’s a betrayal - of friendship and trust - in pursuit of personal glory.
For years, fans and pundits have suggested that Silva is a bit sensitive. That he creates slights in his mind and gets too worked up over them. There are the obvious cases where opponents clearly crossed the line, ie. Chael Sonnen’s never ending delusional and racist taunts or Chris Leben telling Silva to go back to Japan to fight because the competition was easier there. Silva was angry then and clearly relished beating those two.
But in fights like those against Demian Maia and Vitor Belfort, Silva seemed to carry extra chips on his shoulder into the Octagon on fight night, despite the fact that it was a stretch for any outside observer to see any disrespect in Maia and Belfort towards Silva.
Anderson toyed with Maia for five rounds, battering, bloodying him and taunting him, apparently wanting the challenger to endure a full five rounds of humiliation instead of ending his suffering. Belfort, well, Silva arrived at the day-before weigh-ins looking and acting like a mentally disturbed person and then knocked Belfort out seconds into the fight with a kick to the head.
That this type of behavior from Silva has confused people has, well, confused me for years. As a Chicagoan and die-hard fan of Michael Jordan’s Bulls, it was all to logical and familiar to me. Jordan was a master of using obstacles and slights as motivation to win. And when no extra ones were there, he’d just create or magnify them in his own head.
What was Anderson Silva (L) thinking here? Maybe, “This is what I need to do to hype myself up into knocking you out in 95 seconds.”
Remember Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy suggesting that Jordan was a “con man,” in 1997? "He uses everything he has to his advantage, whether psychological or physical. He cons [other players] by inviting them to his movies. He cons them with the commercials. He pretends to enjoy guys like them and all he wants to do is win," Van Gundy said then.
When Jordan next played the Knicks he starched them for 51 points and loudly cursed Van Gundy out during the game, in front of a packed arena and millions of television viewers.
Playing year after year, for long NBA seasons, after already having accomplished so much, being able to use perceived slights was instrumental for Jordan to retain his competitive edge. Anderson Silva has learned to do the same. He himself has been fighting for a decade and has been champion for five straight years.
As Chiappetta astutely writes, “The greatest operate on a level most of us can never truly understand. The drive, determination and motivation to push themselves to a level that few possess comes from within, and is often powered by what we’ll call ‘alternative fuel sources. It’s not simply about proving you’re the best, it’s about shutting up the challengers and making believers out of the skeptics.”
Silva isn’t an overly sensitive baby. He, like Jordan, is a dominant champion. And to be a dominant champ you’ve got to be wired a bit differently than normal people. Read Chiappetta’s full story for more insight and examples of Jordan and Silva’s similarities as competitors.