Anderson Silva breaks down following the weigh-in ahead of UFC 234. Picture: UFC
Anderson Silva breaks down following the weigh-in ahead of UFC 234. Picture: UFC

Nobody expected this from UFC legend

OF ALL the things to be expected from a UFC weigh-in, tears would be a fair way down the list - especially coming from one of the greatest fighters of all time.

But that's what happened on Saturday in Melbourne as Anderson Silva was overwhelmed by emotion after making weight for his middleweight tangle at UFC 234 against Israel Adesanya.

Silva is coming off a two-year layoff following a run-in with the United States Anti-Doping Agency and his return has clearly been weighing heavily on his mind.

"I worked my entire life for this sport and I tried to do my best," Silva said through the tears.

"Thank you God, for giving me one more time, the opportunity to put on a show for you guys."

It has been a long road back to the octagon for Silva, especially considering how high he once flew.

For six years and 17 fights, everyone who marched forward was dispatched with an almost artistic elegance.

The defining moments of Silva's reign - his twin triumphs over Rich Franklin, the Matrix-style KO of Forrest Griffin, the front kick knockout against Vitor Belfort and his finest hour, the prayer of a submission that snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Chael Sonnen - they all live forever in the minds of MMA fans.

That's why even now, so removed from Silva's glorious past, the punters queue to see him. How many times in a lifetime could you watch a Brazilian Bruce Lee?

He is a legend, the best middleweight ever, some will say the greatest of them all, and if he's pulling on the gloves again then the rest doesn't matter because there's always a chance, no matter how small or remote, of Silva summoning the old magic.

UFC legend Anderson Silva will have his first fight in two years at UFC 234.
UFC legend Anderson Silva will have his first fight in two years at UFC 234.

That's why, when Silva makes the walk to the octagon on Sunday it won't matter that he turns 44 in two months, it won't matter that he hasn't beaten a middleweight in decisive fashion since 2012, it won't matter that he's currently on a 1-4 (one no contest) streak and it won't matter that he's been suspended by USADA twice.

All that will matter is the idea of the return, the dream of one more time.

If Silva can defy the odds to win, he'll have the chance to once more fight for the title he held for so long, but to do so he'll have to take down Adesanya, the Nigerian-Kiwi who's as smooth as water and lances in with a dazzling array of strikes that come with mind-bending speed and lethal accuracy.

Adesanya is 16 years younger than Silva, unbeaten in 15 MMA fights and looks every part a future champion. He has blazed through his first four UFC fights with the glorious purpose of youth and he looks like the future.

He's a brash and brazen competitor who wears stardom as if he were born to it.

In combat sports the young eat the old and, as much as the crowd can try and will Silva to victory, if Adesanya, who is heavily favoured, decapitates the older man and holds his head aloft, they will cheer him as much as they ever would the Brazilian.

Some have said Adesanya is a clone of Silva but that's not right - they're both one of a kind.

As cocky as Adesanya has been in prediction for most of his fights, he has shown Silva nothing but respect through the week and nearly broke into tears himself after making weight.

"He's nearly making me cry, f--- him," Adesanya said.

"I'm a fan of this man, but just because I'm a fan doesn't mean he can't catch these hands, or elbows, or feet.

"I'll give him a nice send-off."