Anderson Silva, one of the all-time greats in the sport of mixed martial arts, couldn't put together a win at UFC 234 against undefeated middleweight Israel Adesanya, ESPN reports. The win for Adesanya came by unanimous decision, with each judge scoring the three-round bout to Adesanya.
The two men faced each other at subastnaitally different points in their respective careers, with Adesanya at age 29 and the legendary veteran Silva approaching the end of his career at age 43.
"This is like, if I'm playing basketball, to play against Michael Jordan. This is it for me," Adesanya said.
Silva was likewise respectful to his young opponent, saying after the fight to Adesanya, "I pass the baton onto you."
In an unscheduled turn of events, Adesanya vs. Silva had taken center stage headlining UFC 234 after Robert Whitaker pulled out of his title defense against Kelvin Gastelum shortly before the event. Whittaker needed emergency surgery on Sunday after suffering an abdominal hernia and there is no clear expectation about when the middleweight champion will return.
The last-minute switch gave Adesanya the spotlight against a fan-favorite opponent in Silva, doubtlessly putting eyes on the young fighter that might not have caught him in action otherwise.
Even as the largely Australian crowd cheered unequivocally for Silva, Adensana remained composed and largely controlled the fight, even sprinkling in some Silva-esque banter, such as holding his fingers barely apart after barely missing what would have been a punishing head kick to Silva.
Though, Adensana's performance was really nothing to be denied, longtime crowd favorite Silva clearly maintained the respect of fans and fighters alike, even in defeat. An outpouring of praise and a number of good-natured MMA memes flooded the internet shortly after the fight.UFC megastar Conor McGregor chimed in, declaring his respect for Silva and perhaps even hinting at a Silva vs. McGregor superfight matchup for himself.
"Phenomenal performance. The crafty veteran. Big respect always," McGregor tweeted after the fight, coyly closing with "It would be an honor!"
UFC President Dana White quickly shut down the possibility when asked about it.
"Did he really [say that]?" White said after UFC 234. "No, I don't like that fight at all," he added.
As for Silva himself, the Brazilian remained noncommittal.
"At this point in my career and in Conor's career, it's a very interesting doing something special for the fans," he said.
"I think a superfight, me and Conor, is very interesting. We'll see. The future inside the UFC is very interesting because everything changes fast. I'm ready to come back to fight."