Before UFC 234, Anderson Silva made it very clear why he had accepted a fight with Israel Adesanya. It was simple, he said. UFC President Dana White had promised him a shot at the title if he won.
But then Silva left with a unanimous decision defeat in Australia, and now things are not that simple anymore. What is a 43-year-old former champion and a great player of all time supposed to do when he can not make it to the top but still does not want to leave the party? Where does Silva go from here, now that his dreams of a title fight in his late career have reached a serious hurdle?
In the general sense, there seem to be three different options for Silva's continued career in UFC. Not all are great …
1. Join the tour of the legends.
When it comes to planning a profitable future for aging wrestlers (without risking their lives in the process), maybe the UFC can take a clue from Bellator. Instead of facing old fighters like Silva against new ones like Adesanya, he could find some competition in his own age group. And it's not that there are not enough fighters in their 40s who are still looking for work.
The problem is that the UFC does not tend to keep those guys for a long time. Wrestlers such as Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen, both ex-rivals of Silva who now also enjoy their golden years in sports, have managed to get out of the promotion.
Is there a veteran left in the middleweight other than Silva, himself? Maybe the UFC would have to go look for it a little bit. Which, honestly, does not sound like something that is a high priority for the company at this time.
2. Become the trampoline that hits you back.
This is essentially the role the UFC assigned him against Adesanya. I wanted a fighter with some name value, but also one who did not spoil the plans for the future by being too terribly dangerous in the present.
It worked, too. For the UFC and Adesanya, at least. Silva defended himself enough to keep things interesting, but not so much that he was never so close to winning. Adesanya got a boost and the UFC got the use of Silva's old fame to promote a card that ended up needing help. The drawback is that such an approach could easily prove dangerous to the health of a 43-year-old man.
3. Think outside the box for "fun" fights
Do you know what is weird? For a man who built his reputation as a great middleweight, some of Silva's most memorable moments came out of the division. Remember when he starred James Irvin and Forrest Griffin in light heavyweight? Remember when he went up and educated a muscular and suspicious Stephan Bonnar in Brazil? Silva has lost only one fight in light heavyweight, and it was a fight against double champion Daniel Cormier.
Assuming that both UFC and Silva can make peace with the idea that their days of fighting for titles end forever, it could be fun to be creative with the confrontations. That fight by Georges St-Pierre would still sell. Maybe you can even convince me to find out how Silva would do against someone like Ilir Latifi. Once you eliminate the illusion that any of these fights are "over" something in terms of classifications or divisional hierarchies, many possibilities open up.
On the other hand, Silva has already done it in some way. What else do you think Nick Diaz fought for? The fact that a promise of shot to the title is what attracted him to the Adesanya fight tells you that Silva could have different ideas about his future. You would simply hate to see how those ideas hurt you as you get older and the contestants become younger and fiercer.
For full coverage of UFC 234, see the UFC Events section of the site.