With current UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya set for his fourth title defense in the main event of UFC 271 next Saturday against Robert Whittaker, the question was raised to Cormier of whether a win would make Adesanya the best ever to compete at 185 pounds.
“No,” Cormier said responding to a fan on ESPN. “Dude, Anderson Silva existed. Anderson Silva existed, like, I don’t get this recency bias that fans have. Guys, you can’t just—honestly, I think the word GOAT gets thrown around way too easy in fight sports. You’ve got to really—the only person that doesn’t get passed is Muhammad Ali. There have been really impressive fighters, but people recognize what Muhammad Ali was.
“Anderson Silva was to MMA what Muhammad Ali was to boxing. No, Izzy has some work to do to catch Anderson.”
Prior to Adesanya’s rise to stardom, Silva (34-11, 1 NC) had long been the de facto answer whenever anyone asked who is the middleweight GOAT. From 2006-2013, Silva won 17 straight fights and successfully defended his UFC title 10 consecutive times. He is also famed for his mystifying striking performances that have resulted in countless highlight-reel clips that are still revered to this day.
Adesanya (21-1) has carved out his own impressive legacy since debuting with the UFC in 2018. “The Last Stylebender” is 10-0 at middleweight inside the octagon (his lone loss a failed bid to take the 205-pound title from Jan Blachowicz) and, like Silva, is renowned for his incredible striking displays. He also defeated Silva by unanimous decision in the main event of UFC 234 in February 2019.
As Cormier’s ESPN co-host Ryan Clark went over Silva’s accomplishments and impact on MMA, the former two-division champion nodded along and acknowledged that Silva had a major influence on his own career. And when Cormier had the chance to fight Silva at UFC 200, he admitted that he was in awe.
“I looked across the octagon and I knew that I was fighting Anderson at UFC 200,” Cormier said. “We did the staredowns for the weigh-ins and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m fighting Anderson Silva.’ Then when we got in the octagon I was like ‘Holy sh*t, that’s Anderson Silva.’ It was like, the levels just kept going up in terms of appreciation for who he was to the sport of MMA.
“Anderson Silva is the MMA, mixed martial arts goat at 185. It’ll be a long time before someone passes him.”