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What Anderson Silva’s Failure Means for Georges St-Pierre

This week, it was revealed that Anderson Silva failed a random drug test conducted back on Jan. 9. Silva, who fought Nick Diaz at UFC 183 on Jan. 31, popped  positive for two performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs): Drostanolone and Androstane. While much has been made about how this affects the Brazilian and his storied legacy, it is also worth taking a look at what this means for his long-time rival (in notoriety if not in competition), Georges St-Pierre.

Reconstructing the Past

St-Pierre and Silva have long been the consensus top two mixed martial artists in the sport’s nascent history (some make the argument for Pride FC stalwart Fedor Emelianenko to be included in that group, I don’t). The choice between the two has been one of preference.

Silva has the more compelling records, going undefeated in the UFC for an unprecedented amount of time, but didn’t always fight the most stellar competition. “The Spider’s” highlight reel may be the most vaunted in the sport, but he has had his fair share of close-calls and lackluster performances. St-Pierre’s dominance parallels Silva’s, but a hiccup against Matt Serra has always been a black mark against him. And while he reigned over three different generations of welterweights, St-Pierre is often accused of fighting “safe” post-Serra.

However, Silva’s test failure firmly implants GSP in that top spot. Many of “The Spider’s” supporters will cry foul or say that the PEDs were only taken for recovery following his gruesome injury suffered at UFC 168, but fair or not, PEDs cast an all-encompassing shadow.

Reinforcing the Present

Silva’s test also relatively exonerates St-Pierre for PED usage, as he maintains his image as a clean champion in the eyes of the public. St-Pierre has long been plagued with PED accusations due to his Adonisian physique (ironically, chief among these accusers was Nick Diaz, who showed uncharacteristic deference towards Silva prior to their encounter). For those casting a suspicious eye towards the UFC, unsure if it would reveal if a star of St-Pierre’s magnitude failed a drug test, the fact that it reported drug test failures by Silva and light heavyweight phenom Jon Jones seems to indicate any past transgressions by St-Pierre would’ve come to light.

(It should be noted that both champions mentioned above failed random drug tests, something St-Pierre was only subjected to prior to his last bout, a successful title defense against Johny Hendricks at UFC 167. For what it’s worth, St-Pierre has stated that he would only come back to the UFC if random drug testing was involved.)

Reevaluating the Future

With rumors of his demise being perhaps not-so-greatly exaggerated, it’s plausible that St-Pierre was focused on Silva’s return bout as a potential mirror of his own possible future. Silva came out victorious, but was an ersatz version of his once-great self. Fans were calling for Silva to retire on top rather than continue fighting, as they feared he’d lose to the upper echelon of the middleweight division. For someone as career-savvy as St-Pierre, it stands to reason he could’ve taken that fight as validation of his decision to stay on the sidelines. The revelation that this was an “enhanced” Silva would simply belabor that point.

The only fight that seemed to make sense for these two at this juncture was for them to fight each other in the culmination of years of “superfight” hype (and not the -lite variety that Silva-Diaz was presented as, either). With Silva facing impending suspension and a damaged legacy, St-Pierre stands to lose much more from taking the fight then he would’ve prior.

Ultimately, Silva’s drug test failure and the backlash to it reinforce St-Pierre’s decision to leave the sport while on top. We want him to fight now for our own sake, but the annals of history will remain unaffected by our momentary desires. The controversy surrounding his last victory will fade; future generations will remember him leaving of his own championship volition, unlike the beaten, broken, and befouled Silva.

Image credit: @kalylsilva

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