Where does Anderson Silva go from here? Three different potential paths for an aging legend

Prior to UFC 234, Anderson Silva made it very clear why he’d accepted a fight with Israel Adesanya. It was simple, he said. UFC President Dana White had promised him a title shot if he won.

But then Silva came away with a unanimous decision loss in Australia, and now things aren’t so simple anymore. What’s a 43-year-old former champ and all-time great supposed to do when he can’t quite make it to the top but still doesn’t want to leave the party just yet? Where does Silva go from here, now that his dreams of a late-career title fight have hit a serious roadblock?

In the big picture sense, seems like there are three different options for Silva’s continuing UFC career. Not all of them are great…

1. Join the legends tour

When it comes to plotting out a profitable future for aging fighters (without risking their lives in the process) maybe the UFC could stand to take a clue from Bellator. Instead of putting old fighters like Silva up against new ones like Adesanya, it could find him some competition in his own age group. And it’s not like there aren’t enough fighters in their 40s still looking for work.

The problem is, the UFC doesn’t tend to keep those guys around long. Fighters like Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen – both former Silva opponents who are now also enjoying their golden years in the sport – have found their way out of the promotion.

Are there even any old-timers left at middleweight aside from Silva, himself? Maybe the UFC would have to go find him some. Which, honestly, doesn’t sound like anything that’s a high priority for the company right now.

2. Become the stepping stone that hits back

This is essentially the role that the UFC assigned him against Adesanya. It wanted a fighter with some name value, but also one who wouldn’t spoil plans for the future by being too terribly dangerous in the present.

It worked, too. For the UFC and Adesanya, at least. Silva fought back just enough to keep things interesting, but not so much that he ever came too close to winning. Adesanya got a boost and the UFC got the use of Silva’s former fame to promote a card that ended up really needing the help. The downside is, that approach could easily prove hazardous to a 43-year-old man’s health.

3. Think outside the box for ‘fun’ fights

You know what’s weird? For a guy who built his fame as a great middleweight, some of Silva’s most memorable moments came outside the division. Remember when he starched James Irvin and Forrest Griffin at light heavyweight? Remember when he went up and schooled a suspiciously muscled Stephan Bonnar in Brazil? Silva has only lost one bout at light heavyweight, and it was a short-notice affair against double champ Daniel Cormier.

Assuming that both the UFC and Silva can make peace with the idea that his days of fighting for titles are forever done, there could be some fun to be had by getting creative with matchups. That Georges St-Pierre fight would still sell. You could maybe even talk me into finding out how Silva would do against someone like Ilir Latifi. Once you strip away the illusion that any of these fights are “about” anything in terms of rankings or divisional hierarchies, a lot of possibilities open up.

Then again, Silva’s already done this in a way. What else do you think that Nick Diaz fight was for? The fact that a title shot promise is what lured him into the Adesanya fight tells you that Silva might have different ideas about his future. You’d just hate to see those ideas get him hurt as he gets older and the contenders just get younger and more ferocious.

For complete coverage of UFC 234, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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