Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Over the Aldo vs. Mendes II weekend in Rio de Janeiro, at the same place where The Ultimate Fighter Brasil 4 try-outs were held—the Windsor Barra Hotel—Anderson Silva was a special guest at a round table during a conference dubbed “Rio Sport & Health.” The sports medicine conference held a special discussion about injuries in sport, and alongside The Spider, included Antônio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira and Rafael “Feijão” Cavalcante, as well as a doctor, a physical trainer and a physical therapist. The discussion was mediated by the Brazilian Athletic Commission’s director, Márcio Tannure, who also orchestrated the occasion.

Anderson Silva recently scrapped his previous UFC contract extension—which saw him extend it for another 10 fights—Anderson Silva then signed a new one, which put him up for a 15-fight extension.

Having been the subject of a horrifying injury during his last fight against Chris Weidman, Anderson Silva hasn’t fought since 2013, but he announced a return to the Octagon earlier this year, and is now confirmed to face Stockton’s Nick Diaz on January 31st.

Although every action The Spider has taking during his hiatus—be that showing off in post-recovery training videos, making public appearances that exude confidence, further extending his contract—makes him seem like the old Anderson, during the discussion, he confessed that he’s been dealing with a lack of strength in his injured leg, and is apprehensive about his current condition.

At the conference he said that when he suffered the injury he thought he was never going to fight again. He also mentioned that his recovery has been closely monitored by his physical therapist, Fabiano Bastos, but that it has been a difficult road. He admitted apprehension toward his current condition, and that he isn’t yet able to do some of the things he was once able to—Anderson further explains his experience by saying that he had never before been injured.

Although the injury has been overcome, Anderson elaborated on his current condition by explaining that he’s noticed some stiffness still in training, caused in part because he’s lost strength and stability in his hips.

Anderson is a god among men, no question about that. Chances are he’ll be just fine by the time he has to step into the Octagon again, but to know that he feels this way and is gearing up to face one of the best, most well-prepared athletes in the UFC is somewhat nerve-wracking.

Although Anderson has incredible doctors and therapists assisting him in his return to glory, these statements cannot be ignored and shrugged off. Recovering from a serious injury such as the one he sustained against Chris Weidman takes time, and rarely is the recovery 100%—especially at the age Anderson is in. Minotauro, who has been injured and recovered countless times, says it’s just part of the game. He’s got 16 screws in an arm from a break courtesy of Frank Mir. But that’s beside the point, should we be worried about Anderson’s return to the UFC? If things go as he plans, Anderson Silva will be fighting for another six years, more or less, until he is midway through his 40s.

What will that trajectory look like, if, indeed, his apprehensions come from a very real place—a place where Anderson is no longer the Spider that, simply put, cleaned out the middleweight ranks? Will we see a career in decline, a career in stagnation—or will Anderson prove to truly be the G.O.A.T by not only fully recovering his health, but also fully recovering his dominance in the sport.

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