Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Don't take this the wrong way, but there are lots of UFC middleweights that are sick and tired of Anderson Silva, or more specifically, his presence in their division. After all, the champion always seems to be blocking their route to the top. Every time they look up, he's there like a sentry standing guard.
Silva is coming up on the six-year anniversary of winning the belt and hasn't really shown many signs of slowing. With that reign comes certain perks. For example, Silva probably has more control over his career than any other fighter in history. He can make certain demands that others can't. And when he decides to put on the brakes, he can halt the division, that evidenced by the developments that have occurred in the month since his last fight.
During that time, the UFC made it clear they wanted Silva to next fight fast-rising star Chris Weidman, but Silva's team quickly resisted. Instead, he is considering a superfight with Georges St. Pierre, even though GSP won't be fighting until November and already has a scheduled matchup with Carlos Condit. While Silva waits things out, the middleweight contender traffic snarls behind him.
While UFC 150's Ed Herman knows he's not among the current short-list of Silva's likely next challengers, with another win, he'll at least be building momentum for a spot. Like every other 185er walking the planet, he would like to be the one standing over Silva when his reign ends, but even if it's not him, he thinks that it's about time for some turnover at the top.
"I think so," he told MMA Fighting. "Anderson's been the champ for so long it's almost like people are writing everybody else off. It’s a little bit maybe boring and stagnant for the fans in the sense that it can be exciting to have a new champ for them and for guys coming up. But I sure would like to be the guy to knock off the greatest champion ever. I just don’t know how much longer he’s going to stick around or if I’ll have the chance to do that."
Herman, who is fighting Jake Shields on Saturday night, has had nearly his entire UFC career bookended by Silva's win streak. The two debuted in the promotion four days apart in the summer of 2006. Since then, Herman has fought 12 times, had two knee surgeries, missed a 22-month block of action and recently put together a three-fight win streak.
During it all, Silva has been an immovable force at the top, winning 15 straight.
"It’s very impressive what he's done," Herman said. "I respect him a lot, in that sense that he beat everyone they put in front of him. He’s been the champ. That last victory over Chael Sonnen was huge. For him mentally, almost losing like he did and to to go in there and lose the first round, then come out, defend the shots and finish Chael had to be a huge confidence booster to prove that he still got what it takes to beat the best guys in the world. I definitely respect the fact he’s been on top for this long. We'll see how much longer that plays out."
Herman says that he thinks the Sonnen feud might have reignited Silva's fire for his future bouts. At the same time, he says he thinks there are hungry opponents out there that have seen some vulnerability in Silva from those fights. Guys like himself, Alan Belcher, and Weidman.
While in the past, some have fought scared against Silva, Herman says those days might be over. Of the short-listers, Herman said that Weidman offers Silva the most difficult style matchup due to his complete game, but particularly, his considerable grappling skills.
But that doesn't mean he's abandoning his own hope of one day getting the chance to unseat the champion. The back-to-back knee surgeries may have briefly caused some doubt about his future, but it also served as a wakeup call that every professional athlete's time is limited.
"Almost losing your career, you don't know what you have until it's gone," he said. "I feel like I'm ready to make a run. When I was hurt, I really felt like I hadn't shown everything I had to show yet. I knew I had more to prove."
He's done that with consecutive finishes of Tim Credeur, Kyle Noke and Clifford Starks. But Shields -- the former Strikeforce middleweight and welterweight champion -- certainly stands as his most significant challenge in years.
Given Shields' reputation and past history, a win over him can offer Herman a bump in his ranking. That doesn't mean he'll be jumping over Weidman, but he does think it speaks to the newfound depth of the division. While Silva is looking elsewhere for a challenge, other fighters are beginning to line up behind him.
It's not quite the same as holding the belt hostage, but it's not too different either. And when the time is ticking on everyone else's clock, that is not a welcome development.
"I guess he’s got the right because he's won so many fight in a row, and he's been such a dominant champion he has that power a little bit," he said. "So, it is going to be a little bit of a dogfight to get the rest of this figured out with the division. It's probably going to be a while until somebody gets the title shot. We're probably going to have to shoot it out. It's going to be interesting to see how it plays out with the upcoming matchups. I'm excited to see what happens over the next few months. I just wish the champ was more active in fighting middleweights instead of trying to fight different weight classes."
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