“Oh my God.”
“Oh my goodness.”
These words, uttered by the announcers calling Saturday night’s highly anticipated Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight title fight between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman, captured the moment perfectly. Oh. My. God.
In the second round, Silva kicked Weidman with his left leg. Weidman raised his own left leg to block Silva. When the limbs collided, the lower part of Silva’s leg snapped like a stick. That ended the fight, revolted everyone watching it live and ruined Sunday morning for those who caught the clip. Silva went straight into surgery; the career of the UFC’s all-time greatest fighter is now in jeopardy.
Over the past 15 years, the UFC has largely shed its image as “human cockfighting,” the label Senator John McCain once gave mixed martial arts. That comment didn’t stop the UFC’s meteoric climb up the U.S. sports hierarchy. It has largely replaced boxing as the sport that most satisfies our bloodlust.
So this horrific injury is a disaster for the sport. It happened on one of the most important nights in UFC history. This was Silva-Weidman, the sequel, which UFC president Dana White called “the biggest fight we’ve ever done.” Five months ago, Weidman shocked the UFC world by knocking out Silva, who had never lost a UFC bout and was champion for seven years. Fight fans were thirsting for a rematch, and got their wish (one reason to prefer mixed martial arts over boxing: the important fights actually happen. Imagine that, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao).
Plus, the sport’s most ascendant star, Ronda Rousey, was also on the UFC 168 card. She beat rival Miesha Tate earlier in the evening. Rousey surely drew curious eyeballs — eyeballs that wished they were closed for Silva-Weidman.
(MORE: Gruesome Injury Ends UFC Fight)
Picture Joe Theismann breaking his leg against the New York Giants in 1985, but during the Super Bowl, not a regular-season Monday-night game.
Silva’s injury won’t indict MMA. The sport isn’t going to lose its licenses; its popularity won’t suddenly wane. Weidman did not snap Silva’s leg on his own; it felt like a freak accident.
But this incident wasn’t as freaky as, say, Kevin Ware’s. The Louisville guard simply landed on his foot after contesting a jump shot. Next thing you know, a bone was protruding from his skin. That was never supposed to happen.
In MMA, fists and arms and legs are flying. The risk of gruesome injury is raised. Weidman’s striking coach even has a name for his fighter’s move of thrusting a knee into an opponent’s leg kick — “The Destruction.”
Weidman himself doesn’t chalk up the injury to dumb luck. “I don’t think it was accidental when you try to check a kick and it works,” Weidman said, via the Las Vegas Sun. “If I didn’t try to check the kick, I’d have a big bruised leg right now and he’d have picked me apart with leg kicks. You try to check kicks, and that’s what happens.”
Silva’s injury does not make MMA too violent. MMA makes MMA too violent. It was a brutal night, for a brutal game.
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