Anderson Silva made a deal with the Devil, and this past Saturday the Devil got his due.
“I can give you fame,” said the Devil, on a summer night in 2006. “Fame and riches and accolades unheard of,” and Anderson listened to the offer, listened as the Devil listed among the consideration words such as “legacy” and “reverence” and “respect”.
What was it that cinched the deal for the lanky Brazilian with the deadly-accurate striking and the high rank in jiu-jitsu? Maybe it was the promise of greatness. Maybe it was the chance to live comfortably and provide for his family. Or maybe it was simply because what the Devil seemed to want in return was what Anderson was already so good at providing – that is, violence, graceful and balletic violence.
So the deal was struck, the agreement made not with a signature or a handshake but with a crushing knockout via a knee to the skull. Then came the shattered nose, the elbows, the explosiveness, the stunning kicks to the head and the seemingly impossible, almost superhuman movement. Normal people of Earth didn’t possess those abilities, and it probably would have been tough to find Anderson’s equal in Heaven and Hell as well. It was spectacle again, in a sport that had seemed to have forgotten its mismatch-heavy origins. It was sanctioned public execution, made palatable by athletic commissions and rules. It was entertainment.
And the Devil was happy, and Anderson acquired his fame and riches, and the accolades came unbidden from celebrities and athletes and from the whole world. He was far and away the greatest that ever was – surely he’d be the greatest that there’d ever be, too.
But while most of the terms of the contract were known to both parties, one thing unknown was the duration, and the acknowledgement that once time had expired, the deal was done. So when Anderson stepped into the cage almost seven years to the day when his pact had been made, he could not have known that his journey was at its end. He could not have known that his unearthly abilities were gone, that his once precognizant talent for dancing away from danger was now the very hubris that would fell him. The deal was done, over with, finished, and so was he, courtesy of the very knockout-inducing violence he’d so artfully visited upon his opponents over the years.
“Just one more,” said the Devil to the wavering Anderson. “Just one more and perhaps that fleeting greatness can be yours again.” And maybe it was those words that brought Anderson back from the brink of retirement, or maybe it was the prospect of another taste of fame. It could have even been just the glitter of gold.
Regardless of what it was, though, Anderson did return, this time with a plan, this time more a fighter than a dancer.
Now our last images are of him carried out of the cage on a stretcher, wailing in pain at the shattered remnants of his leg.
Anderson Silva made a deal with the Devil seven years ago. The Devil finally got his due on Saturday night.
And that Devil was us.
Front-Page Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor