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Fightweets: Wanderlei Silva exits with legacy tarnished

Esther Lin

It appeared we were in the clear to look forward to UFC 178, one of the deepest events in quite some time, as we rolled through into the weekend. We were finishing up a rare drama-free week in the world's wackiest sport.

Or so it seemed. Friday, the UFC turned into the NFL in one respect, as in short order, Thiago Silva was released for domestic abuse and Anthony "Rumble" Johnson was indefinitely suspended on similar charges.

Not too long thereafter, Wanderlei Silva went on a slightly unhinged rant announcing his retirement from mixed martial arts and venting his venom at the UFC.

And with that, we suddenly found ourselves with plenty of topics. We'll note that this was written before the UFC Fight Night card in Japan but is being published afterward, so we won't be addressing that card here:

Wanderlei Silva's legacy

@RuckerYeah: Pretty sad the way the Axe Murderer went out

If only Silva had called it a career in March, 2013. That was when the longtime PRIDE 205-pound champion turned back the clock and got to relive his heyday in a way few fighters ever get to experience. Silva and Brian Stann tangled in a glorious, vintage "Axe Murderer"-style brawl, in his former stomping grounds of Japan's Saitama Super Arena, before taking the fight via second-round TKO.

If only he had left well enough alone.

Silva's career cake to an ugly end through a series of self-inflicted wounds. In the video message uploaded to YouTube on Friday announcing his retirement, Silva ripped into the UFC. But the UFC didn't make Silva attack Chael Sonnen on the set of TUF: Brazil. Or flee the gym to avoid a drug test. Or make all sorts of legal noise at the Nevada Athletic Commission, only to retire from the sport a few days before his day of reckoning in front of the panel.

Silva remains one of the most exciting and accomplished competitors in the history of the sport. Nothing can change that/ Unfortunately, bizarre behavior over the past year outside of competition will become every bit a part of his legacy as his courage in the ring. And that is indeed sad.

UFC and domestic violence

@TokoBali2: Did the UFC take an ethics class or was this a purely strategical move to prevent NFL-type controversy?

The UFC dropped a little bomb into the middle of what seemed a quiet Friday when they released Thiago Silva and indefinitely suspended Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, both for domestic abuse-related incidents.

I said in last week's Fightweets that re-signing Silva was a bad move. It's not like Silva had been exonerated of the charges. Within the sport, he had failed drug tests. And it's not like a Floyd Mayweather situation, where promoters look the other way because of the sheer volume of money he's bringing in. Silva had little upside as a fighter, in addition to all his other baggage. Goodbye and good riddance.

In Johnson's case, an indefinite suspension is merited. There is still such a thing as due process in this country. Let Johnson have his day in court or see what the third-party law firm turns up. If the allegations turn out to have merit, the UFC can always finish the process and drop him outright.

As to whether these were simply PR moves? We're in the midst of a cultural shift where, finally, it seems the pro sports establishment is being forced to take allegations of domestic violence seriously. It's long overdue. The UFC brought plenty of grief on themselves by bringing back Silva in the first place. Hopefully this is the start of a coherent and consistent policy on the issue. Whatever the motives for the release/suspension, better late than never.

Who has the most to lose?

@AndreHill48: who has the most to lose at #ufc178 McGregor/Alvarez/Zingano/Cruz?

Great question, backed with a solid list of fighters with plenty to lose.

Eddie Alvarez is about to face his defining, put-up-or-shut-up career moment. He's waited all this time for his opportunity to join the UFC. He had a high-profile legal situation with his previous employer. He's only fought once in nearly two years. And he's jumping a big line at lightweight to meet one of the hottest fighters in the sport. If he wins, he could be next up for a title shot, or one fight away at worst. If he loses? You know how this sport goes. All of a sudden, he gets called a fraud. Fair? No. But just the way it is.

Big stakes for Cat Zingano, too. Her fight against Amanda Nunes is her first in 17 months. She's been through quite a bit of hardship between then and now. She was supposed to get a shot at Ronda Rousey's bantamweight title after defeating Miesha Tate last year. I think reasonable people can agree it is smart not to throw her right in the cage with Rousey after such a layoff. But now she has to produce, too. There's a bit of a sweepstakes going on at the moment to see who will get the next Rousey fight, with Bethe Correia - who like Zingano, is undefeated - is making her case, and Gina Carano always looms. In that environment, Zingano needs to not just win in order to re-assert her spot in the pecking order, but also impress in doing so. And Nunes is no joke.

As for Cruz, I mean, he's already lost quite a bit. Injuries robbed Cruz during what should have been his peak period. He lost his title, lost his spot in the pound-for-pound top five, lost out on considerably money without ever losing his title in the cage. So Cruz has more to gain than lose at this point. He has to the opportunity to prove he still belongs, still has it in him to make another run at the top. If he loses? Well, Takeya Mizugaki is a respected vet and Cruz has been out for nearly three years, so he likely gets a mulligan. Cruz is the person on this list who has already lost the most.

Of course, I'm saving the first guy on your list for last. Conor McGregor has, by far, the most to lose out of the fighters you've listed. The rest can all be boiled down to, essentially, championship aspirations. But none of these of them have gone out of their way to antagonize their entire division by trash talking every and any potential opponent. None of them were given a main-event style ring intro in their second Zuffa fight, even though it was on the prelims. None of them were rushed into headlining a sold-out show in their hometown after just two prelim fights. McGregor has all the potential to become a superstar, and he has the promotion putting its machine behind him. Dustin Poirier represents McGregor's first top-10 opponent. A terrible showing against Poirier can still derail this train just as it's picking up real steam.

And that doesn't even get into Tim Kennedy vs. Yoel Romero, the winner of which will be highly relevant in the middleweight division. (Or Demetrious Johnson vs. Chris Cariaso, the actual main event. This last time a title fight was this maligned, T.J. Dillashaw went out and beat the bricks off Renan Barao). UFC 178 really should be something else.

MMA and rasslin'

@AndreHill: Is it smart for Bellator to let their fighter also compete in wrestling or this is Spike collaboration decision?

First off, can we discuss the abomination that was Bobby Lashley vs. Josh Burns a couple weeks back? Burns is 0-5 in Bellator, and with the loss to Lashley, 3-7 overall in his last 10. Can you imagine the howls of protest if the UFC put a fighter with a similar record on their main cards? Actually, you know what, you don't have to imagine too hard. There was Leonard Garcia. The UFC got endless grief for keeping Garcia on the roster, and he was mostly fighting on prelims.

Anyway ... pro wrestling and mixed martial arts have had a contentious relationship pretty much since UFC 1. To oversimplify: In one side, MMA fans are loathe to admit the pretty obvious business model similarities in the way the UFC and the WWE are set up and operate. On the other, when you point out the fact that one is a sport, and the other isn't, and that this distinction does in fact matter, hardcore wrestling fans react tend to react the way the developmentally disabled kid in "There's Something About Mary" did when you touched his ears.

I think fans are savvy enough in this day and age to grasp that a skilled athlete can both compete in MMA and participate in pro wrestling. Sure, Brock Lesnar was a pro rassler, but he was also an NCAA wrestling champion and there's nothing scripted about knocking out Randy Couture.

Likewise, regardless of what Lashley does on the wrestling side of things, he deserves to be judged on his own merits as a fighter.

And while we're at it, a similar sentiment goes for longtime WWE announcer Jim Ross, as he gets set to make his MMA commentary debut on Oct. 3 with BattleGrounds MMA. From all accounts, Ross is approaching this gig with humility and respect and determined to prove himself as an authentic sportscaster. His past shouldn't be held against him.

Now, when MMA veers too much on the pro wrestling side in front of the cameras, that's when things get uncomfortable. Sure, people talked about Stephan Bonnar's ridiculous skit with Justin McCully a couple weeks back. People talked about New Coke back in the day, too, but that didn't make it a good idea. Between the brushback over the Bonnar incident, and the fact Spike is divesting of the TNA wrestling company, hopefully this means we'll see less crossover silliness on Bellator broadcasts.

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