Opinion: The Greatest of All Time
By Jesse Heitz
The events of UFC 162 threw the MMA universe into veritable turmoil. Anderson Silva, the man that was considered by many fight fans to be not only the greatest active fighter in the world, but the greatest fighter in the history of Mixed Martial Arts, lost to a relative newcomer in Chris Weidman. The question that many fight fans, myself included, are pondering is, “who is the greatest fighter of all time?”
Anderson Silva, seemingly still unbeatable, was unquestionably earmarked for the top spot in the young history of our great sport. He was running neck-and-neck with the great Fedor Emelianenko. Yet, now after his stunning defeat, via KO from a grappler no less, we’re left in a state of contemplation. At this given moment, who holds the honor of being the Greatest of All Time (GOAT)?
Certainly this type of discussion, when witnessed on MMA forums, typically devolves into hurt feelings and name calling. Some claim that such a moniker is simply irrelevant, a la MMA math. However, each and every fight fan at one point or another has thought about it, and undoubtedly has a pick in mind. Many have undoubtedly gotten into debates, if not intensely heated arguments, with fellow fans about who the greatest really is.
In the buildup to his fight with Weidman, Silva mentioned that regardless of whether he won or lost was inconsequential, that his legacy had already been cemented. I tend to disagree with such a statement. It’s too all-encompassing. The unfortunate reality is that bouts at the tail end of a fighter’s career, which almost always end with embarrassing losses and flashlights being shined in their eyes, do affect one’s legacy, definitely in terms of GOAT rankings.
In hindsight we can analyze and reflect upon how dominant a fighter was in their prime, and we can make the case that the slippage that occurs at the end of lengthy careers shouldn’t tarnish our perception of what they once were, but the simple reality is that it does. With virtually all great fighters, the notable exception being boxer Rocky Marciano, fight fans were robbed of the opportunity to have their fighter ride off into the sunset at the peak of his game, at least with regards to record. Such an outcome makes determining the greatest of all time rather difficult.
Had Anderson squashed Weidman, and entered into a well-deserved retirement, it would be hard to argue against him. Now that the opposite has occurred and it’s evident that Silva is in the twilight of his career, we’re forced to comb through the records, detailed examination of their achievements in their respective primes. Who faced stiffer competition? Whose wins were more impressive, and whose losses were more egregious?
These questions I, nor anyone, can definitively answer. Spending too much time thinking about it might very well be a premature, as Anderson Silva might not be spent yet, he may regain his crown and dominate for several more years. Then again, he may get handed more defeats. The only thing I can say with authority is that mulling over the all-important GOAT question is one of the more enjoyable issues to bat around.