Instead of Hiding Our Eyes From Silva’s Leg Break, We Should Embrace It

Weidman Silva “Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. OH MY GOD!” Those were the words uttered by UFC color commentator Joe Rogan when the replay of Anderson Silva breaking his fibula and tibia were shown on the big screen at the MGM Grand Garden Arena last Saturday night at UFC 168 in Las Vegas, one of the most shocking endings to a fight we’ve ever seen inside the Octagon. Silva, the former UFC middleweight champion, threw a leg kick at Chris Weidman that Weidman checked beautifully with the top of his shin/kneecap, resulting in “The Spider” snapping his two lower leg bones in half and Weidman retaining the title via TKO (leg injury). Silva, one of the best muay Thai practitioners in the sport of MMA, has practiced literally millions of leg kicks throughout his 38 years on the planet, but it just took one checked kick by Weidman to end his chance at regaining the title back. The immediate reaction to the leg break on social media, and in bars and living rooms around the world, was that of disgust. So many people were saying they had never seen something as gross in their lives, and for many people, even though MMA is a sport where fighters are routinely knocked out cold and submitted unconscious, for whatever reason they just couldn’t handle the image of Silva breaking his leg. Me, personally, I wasn’t that grossed out by the leg break. As soon as I saw Silva fall down, I knew he was hurt, and it became obvious when he was clutching his leg and screaming that he had broken his leg. And of course, the replays definitely confirmed that initial diagnosis. For many people, UFC 168 was the first time they had watched a mixed martial arts event, and for those people, I can understand why they were given the heebie jeebies, because they haven’t been conditioned to the nasty parts of the sport like some of us fight nerds have. And that’s why I was shocked at the number of pro fighters, journalists, and hardcore fans that were disgusted and turned off by what happened to Silva in the cage last Saturday night. You would think that those practicing, covering, and watching the sport on a regular basis would know that injuries can happen to anyone at anytime by now, but for some reason the consensus sentiment was that this was disgusting. I disagree. I don’t think it was nasty, barbaric or nauseating – any of those adjectives. No, it was none of those. What it was was one of the most violent finishes of the year in mixed martial arts, and perhaps one of the most brutal finishes we’ve ever seen in the Octagon ever. Everyone is so happy when a fighter is knocked unconscious. But when Silva broke his leg, it seemed like everyone was revolted. Why? To me, a leg break – especially since it happened due to Weidman perfectly executing a checked kick technique – is a legit finish. It’s not like Silva was just walking around the Octagon and all of a sudden his leg snapped in half. No, he threw a leg kick with bad intentions and Weidman checked it perfectly. I’m not saying Weidman intended to break his leg, but I am definitely saying he tried to hurt him with the check, because anyone who has practiced their striking knows that the person throwing the kick actually takes more damage than the person checking it perfectly, and that’s why we all need to give Weidman credit for his unbelievable striking defense skills, not just chalk this up to pure luck. The thing about the leg break is that no one would have cared had this happened to some random undercard fighter. Had, say, Esteven Payan broke his leg throwing a leg kick in the first fight of the night, it wouldn’t have been a national water cooler topic. It would have been just a small story on every news website, and people would have forgotten about it already. But because it happened to Silva, one of the greatest fighters to ever play the game, on the biggest stage of the year, in the biggest rematch of the year, and in the last fight of the year in 2013, that’s why everyone was in such an uproar about it, and it’s why all the critics found it easy to bash the sport and criticize it for being too violent, even though the goal of the sport is to hurt your opponent so badly he can not continue. While most people think that just includes knocking out or submitting someone, they’re wrong – it also includes injuries. This is the hurt business, after all. And that’s why we all love MMA: because it’s a violent game of human chess between two trained athletes who chose to do this for a living. They all know the risks of fighting when they step into the cage, and getting badly hurt is part of the job description. So yes, while it did suck to see Silva’s leg break and the sight of him screaming in pain lying on the Octagon floor was sad, it’s something that Silva and every mixed martial artist – and every viewer of the sport – needs to realize can happen to anyone, at anytime, in any fight. Everyone thinks that our heroes are invincible, especially someone like Silva, who for the longest time truly seemed like he could never lose a fight, or even get hurt at all. But no one is invincible. At the end of the day, these are human beings in the cage, and when bones are thrown between two people at high velocities and at strange angles, bad things can happen, and on Saturday night a very bad thing happened as we lost Silva for likely the next year, and possibly forever. Perhaps I have a different perspective on what happened in the cage last weekend than some, because I myself broke a bone competing in the sport. For the longest time I blamed myself for throwing the punch that broke my arm, just like I bet Silva is thinking about that leg kick he threw and blaming himself for getting hurt. But it wasn’t my fault I got hurt, and it wasn’t Silva’s either. It’s just a part of the sport, and it’s a risk that comes with the territory. That’s all it is. The last thing I want to say about this is that I think it’s kind of funny that people were so horrified about Silva’s leg break, yet the image of a clearly concussed Chris Leben walking around on his last legs didn’t get nearly as much press. To me, seeing Leben get knocked down by Uriah Hall and then end his own career was a sadder sight than seeing Silva break his leg on Weidman’s knee cap and being stuck in a cast for the next 3-6 months. But to each their own. What happened to Silva in the cage last Saturday night in Vegas exemplified the brutal reality of the fight game, one that far too many people want to pretend doesn’t exist. But it does. It’s a nasty, violent, brutal sport. But that’s what makes it the best sport in the world. And that’s why, instead of hiding our eyes from Silva’s leg snapping, trying to put it out of our minds, we should embrace it, learn from it, and use it as a reminder of the risks our heroes take every single time they enter the sacred Octagon and appreciate what they do for a living even more.

Written by Adam Martin.

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