The only thing that could be said Saturday about the news that Anderson Silva was elected to the UFC Hall of Fame in its pioneer wing is this: What took so long?
The former UFC middleweight champion, who last fought in MMA on Oct. 31, 2020, in Las Vegas when he was stopped by Uriah Hall, is one of the greatest fighters in the sport’s history and perhaps the most inspirational.
In the package the UFC showed during its broadcast of UFC 286 about Silva's selection, scores of fighters spoke of how he had redefined the game and had inspired them to get into mixed martial arts:
Silva was 17-4 outside the UFC before making his debut in Las Vegas against Chris Leben on June 28, 2006. There was huge hype surrounding Silva’s debut and he more than lived up to it: He knocked Leben out with a vicious knee in just 49 seconds.
He needed only 2:59 in his next fight to stop Rich Franklin and win the UFC middleweight title. He would win his first 16 UFC bouts and made 10 successful title defenses.
He was one of the key athletes who helped transition the sport into the modern era and boost its popularity.
He was known as a vicious striker who knocked out a slew of elite opponents, but he had the all-around game that made him a threat everywhere. He submitted Dan Henderson in the second round with a rear naked choke at UFC 82 on March 1, 2008. And then, in perhaps his most memorable moment, he finished Chael Sonnen with a triangle choke at 3:10 of the fifth round in a bout he was behind on the scorecards.
Even as he aged, he had the will to succeed. After turning 40 in 2015, he fought Michael Bisping, Daniel Cormier, Derek Brunson, Israel Adesanya, Jared Cannonier and Hall, an incredible gauntlet for a fighter in his prime, let alone one plus-40.
Silva helped redefine the game and show what it meant to be a professional. He’ll join Jens Pulver and Jose Aldo in the Class of 2023.