Fans want a Jones-Silva superfight but what about Jones and Silva?
I would like to see Anderson Silva fight Jon Jones. You would, too. We are not alone.
No sooner had Silva's hand been raised in the aftermath of his explosive turnaround against Chael Sonnen last Saturday night than the UFC middleweight division was declared all cleaned out.
Never mind that Mark Muñoz, Michael Bisping and Alan Belcher -- tough guys, all -- had been champing at the bit to get at the champ. Never mind that within four days another toughie, Chris Weidman, would elbow his way to the head of the line with a resounding upset knockout of Muñoz. The word on the street -- that is, if you live on the Information Highway -- was that the Brazilian love child of Alvin Ailey and Annie Oakley had painted all the masterpieces he could in the 185-pound division. Bring on Jon Jones! Bring on Georges St-Pierre! The fan buzz heard 'round the Internet was that a superfight was the only fight.
The Silva vs. St-Pierre fantasy is so two years ago, though. Back then GSP was bleeding dry the welterweight division in much the same way Silva has been squeezing the juice out of his. Anderson has won 16 straight fights and made 10 title defenses; Georges has taken nine in a row, including six defenses of his belt. For the longest time, a collision course seemed to be programmed into GSP's GPS.
But routes have been recalculated. St-Pierre hasn't fought in going on 15 months, and when he returns from knee surgery rehab later this year he'll find another belt holder in his division, interim champ Carlos Condit, plus a few other eligible men waiting for a dance: Johny Hendricks, Martin Kampmann and eventually (after sensimilla harvest?) Nick Diaz. GSP has plenty to keep him busy in the 170-pound division.
That leaves Jones, who does have a Sept. 1 date with Dan Henderson in his little black book but then has a clear calendar for fall and winter. He could squeeze in an appointment in, say, January, which is when Dana White has let it be known that the UFC is planning to stage a mega-fight card at 100,000-seat Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.
A stadium-sized fighting event, of course, needs a stadium-sized main event fight. So why not book a clash between the most graceful, creative and deadly fighter in the history of mixed martial arts and the sport's next big thing, who in many eyes already has shown enough grace, creativity and deadliness to be considered today's biggest star?
Why not make that bout?
Two reasons. No. 1: Anderson Silva doesn't want to fight Jon Jones. No. 2: Jon Jones doesn't want to fight Anderson Silva. And I'm OK with that.
I actually admire the way Jones speaks of Silva, referring to the 37-year-old as "kind of like my idol" in an interview earlier this week with ESPN Radio in Los Angeles. "And fighting your idol," Jones, 24, went on to say, "it's not a thrill for me."
Now, don't talk to me about the spirit of competitiveness, about the best always having to test themselves against the best, about friendships adding fuel to the fieriness of sports rivalries such as, say, Federer vs. Nadal. Combat sport is different. Roger and Rafa swing rackets at a fuzzy ball, not fists at each other's faces.
Yes, I'm aware that MMA and boxing have seen many bouts between competitors who've been friends or at least cordial acquaintances outside the ring or cage, and good for those guys for being capable of setting aside their shared affection in order to approach what they do as an athletic contest. But I would never expect to see the Klitschko or Diaz brothers trade blows (unless TMZ unearths footage shot by some cousin at a drunken family reunion in the Ukraine or the 209). And while Silva and Jones are not blood relatives, if brotherhood flows between them with a current strong enough that they cannot fathom flinging leather, so be it.
What makes me so laissez-faire about the whole thing? It's because Silva vs. Jones would be a mismatch.
I am not referring to a disparity of talent, since in that measurement Silva stacks up against any man. I'm not even talking about youthfulness vs. aging, because even after 15 years of fighting, Anderson still moves with fresh-faced fluidity. I am talking about a size mismatch.
It's true that "The Spider" and "Bones" are just one weight class apart, and that Silva even has dipped his toe in the 205-pound talent pool a couple of times. But he didn't swim up against the baddest -- and biggest -- man in those waters. Jones is a walking oxymoron: a big light heavyweight. He's not dropping to 185 pounds without cutting off one of those 747-wingspan arms, and to ask a true middleweight to bulk up to meet him where he lives is unreasonable.
Jones should pick on someone his own size, like maybe Silva's sensei, Steven Seagal. (Yes, I'm aware that Jon is skin-and-bones by comparison. It's just so easy to underestimate Seagal's girth when you stand his physique and his ego next to one another.)
Actually, Jones should steer clear of Seagal and all other bad actors. The young champion's honesty can be refreshing. Of course, I'm speaking from the perspective of a guy who wants his notebook filled at a press conference.
If I were part of Jon's management team, I might be suggesting he rein it in just a little. Consider Jones's answer to the inevitable Silva question during that ESPN Radio interview. He spoke about how the fighters "respect each other a lot." (So far, so good.) He explained that they're both "striving for personal greatness." (Not sure how a meeting would subvert that, but whatever.) He pointed out that he and Anderson "both have sponsor deals and things that are really important to us, and a big part of that sponsorship package is winning, being a champion." (Um, Jon? No one wants to hear that you're refusing to participate in what would be the biggest fight in UFC history because it might cost you sponsorship dollars. That's a harsh reality of the business, but fans don't want to hear about it. You might want to keep that kind of talk to yourself, champ.)
Jones is young. He can learn a little something from the master. When Silva was asked at the UFC 148 post-fight press conference whether he was interested in a Jones fight, he contorted his face into a melodramatic mask of dread, which drew a laugh from the reporters. Then he leaned into his microphone and, with the whole room holding its collective breath for his answer, said simply, "Nope." Enough said.
If you want to call Silva or Jones a coward, that's on you. I know I'll never play the fear card when trying to assess the psyche of a fighter. Not while I'm sitting behind a keyboard putting nothing but the tips of my fingers in harm's way. These guys step into a cage, let someone lock the door behind them and they do battle. That takes courage.
Maybe UFC president Dana White will decide he's so desperate for a showdown befitting a Texas stadium that he'll keep throwing money at Silva and Jones until they sign on the dotted line. That might make this week's talk about respect and personal greatness ring hollow for some. But most fans, I suspect, will forget all about that and simply be elated to see the fight. I sure would. But if the superfight never happens -- if Silva and Jones play out the string in their parallel universes 20 pounds apart -- I won't hold it against either guy.