“I’m sorry,” Hall said after stopping Silva with strikes at 1:24 of the fourth round Saturday at Apex.
Few fighters engender that type of respect, where their opponent apologizes for beating them, but Silva is no ordinary fighter. He came to the UFC in 2006 and promptly reeled off 16 consecutive victories, many of them in spectacular fashion, and was acclaimed at the time as one of the greatest mixed martial artists who ever lived.
He was the UFC’s Mike Tyson, the guy who could end anyone’s night at any moment in any manner of ways. Even when he was outwrestled and beaten down for more than four rounds, as he was at UFC 117 in a 2010 title defense against Chael Sonnen, he found a way to win in the waning seconds. He saved his title by getting perhaps the most unlikely triangle choke submission in UFC history.
No elite athlete can remain elite forever, though, and it was clear that time has ravaged Silva. He’s won just one fight in the last seven years and, as it did on Saturday, his chin has regularly betrayed him.
He was getting the best of Hall for the better part of three rounds. He was chopping at Hall’s legs early, as Hall stalked him but was conservative with his strikes out of respect for Silva’s legendary counter-striking ability.
With the clock winding down in the third, Hall changed the course of the fight and, perhaps, his own career, since even at 45, a win over Anderson Silva still means something. Hall landed an overhand right that dropped Silva into a heap.
Hall landed two vicious shots as Silva was down. Referee Herb Dean had heard the 10-second clapper and showed restraint and allowed the fight to continue.
There would be no dramatic comeback or storybook finish on this night, though. Silva had to do his post-fight television interview while seated, and then went straight to the hospital to be examined.
White regrets allowing Silva to fight
It was a tale of two careers for Silva. He started 16-0, then finished 1-7 with a no contest in his final nine fights. He simply wasn’t the same fighter he was from 2006-12, when he was legitimately in the conversation as the greatest fighter who ever lived.
From 2013 through Saturday night, he was knocked out four times and started to look his age.
UFC president Dana White, who raved about Silva’s talent in his prime, had mixed emotions at the news conference.
“I don’t feel good about myself letting him fight,” White said.
It was the way Hall felt about having to put Silva away. He said that he thought before the fight about how he’d react if he were to win, especially by knockout. One word kept going through his head.
“Respect,” he said. “I knew I had to be respectful.”
It led Hall to say he was sorry for knocking him out. Hall got into MMA because he fell in love with Silva, and watching what he was able to do in the cage.
And Silva wasn’t necessarily about the victory but about the process. Hall said it was hard on him preparing to fight a guy he’d idolized and who had meant so much to him.
“Leading up to this fight, there were a lot of emotions,” Hall said. “We all know what Anderson has achieved and what he’s done for the sport. He inspired me as a kid; I think I was 22 years old. It was hard. It was hard to separate those emotions and beat him up and potentially kill him. It was weird.
“Right after the event, all of the emotions just came out. Today when I woke up, I was like, ‘S---, I have to deal with this.’ And yeah, I said, ‘I’m sorry.’”
White noted that Silva could do things most fighters couldn’t do. He talked about how Silva was such a master of distance that guys who threw punches at him would miss by centimeters.
He noted his wins over Rich Franklin, Vitor Belfort, Chris Leben, Forrest Griffin and Sonnen as among a slew of electrifying victories.
“Anderson Silva is one of the all-time greats,” White said. “Kids in other sports became MMA fighters because of watching Anderson Silva. He had a massive impact on this company, on Brazil and in other parts of the world.”
True to his nature, Silva encouraged Hall after the fight because he told him he has the talent to be champion. Sitting nearby as they spoke was Israel Adesanya, the middleweight champion who also got into the sport as a result of Silva.
Hall spoke almost reverentially as he listened to Silva after the bout.
“He told me, ‘Train your mind and you can be world champion,’” Hall said. “He was thanking me and I’m like, ‘What are you talking about, bro?’ But he told me to train my mind and become a better version of myself.”
At the end of the day, it’s not only the great wins and long winning streak that we’ll remember about Anderson Silva. It’s not just that he fought into his mid-40s because he loved the competition so much.
It’s also the impact he had on others, like Adesanya and Hall, that contributed to raising the overall talent level in MMA.
He’s no longer physically the same, but in that regard, he continues to have a massive impact on his sport to this day.
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