“How much longer until you hang up the gloves?”

That’s the question older mixed martial arts fighters get all the time.

When looking back through the retirements of UFC’s star fighters, the ages vary. Randy Couture waited until he was 47 to retire, Chuck Liddell was 40 when he had his last fight, and Kenny Florian was just 35 when he put down the four-ounce gloves and picked up the microphone full-time.

If you look at the current UFC roster, 37-year-old Anderson Silva is the one name that stands out as a superstar closing in on the day when he must calls it quits. Even though Silva is nearing his forties, he recently signed a 10-fight contract with the UFC. But will “The Spider” actually fight 10 more times inside the Octagon?

My gut feeling says that he will not.

With the exception of his first three years in the UFC, Silva has only fought twice a year. During the years of 2009 through 2012, the reigning middleweight champion only fought a total of eight times. This will likely be the norm from here on out for a couple of reasons. First, because he’s the champion. And second, because he makes so much money that he doesn’t need to fight three or four times a year to support himself financially.

Looking ahead 10 fights from now—and using Silva’s established pattern of two fights per year—the champ will be 42 years old . That’s not as old as some UFC legends, but Silva has already taken part in 37 professional fights in his career. Add another 10 fights, and that makes 47 fights, 17 more than Couture had when he retired.

But the factor to look at is Silva’s athleticism and endurance. He has made even the best title challengers—and several fighters a weight class above his usual 185-pound stomping grounds—look inferior, like amateurs trying to hang with a professional. And “The Spider” has not absorbed nearly as much damage in his career as many other fighters that are approaching their 40th birthdays. The way Silva looks right now, he could fight 10 more times. We just have to wait and see over time how his body holds up.

Although there is a fair amount of certainty that his ability will still be there in his forties, one question does come to mind. Will he still want to fight?

No one knows this except for Silva and maybe his manager, Ed Soares. My hunch is that Silva may lose his interest as he grows in age. We’ve already seen some hints of this, both in Silva’s words and in his performances against opponents that he clearly doesn’t feel are worthy of sharing the Octagon with him.

Let’s just say Silva finally finds some true challenges. Let’s say he fights Georges St-Pierre this year. Then, either this year or next, he fights light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Those are two huge super fights that fans are begging to see, and neither GSP nor Jones will let Silva dance around the cage and make a fool out of them. But, after those two match-ups, what’s left? That’s the stage at which I see “The Spider” being satisfied and possibly content to retire.

With the exception of a few guys, Silva has already cleaned out the UFC’s middleweight division. He will not want to keep fighting middleweight contenders who he knows he can beat. He wants to be the best ever and prove it by beating St-Pierre and Jones, not other fighters that don’t add much to his legacy.

The UFC gave him this lengthy contract to keep him happy with more dollar signs, but also to give him freedom to do as he pleases. There’s no telling exactly when Silva will decide to hang up the gloves, but he will not have 10 more fights. This contract tells him that the UFC wants him as long as possible, but that whenever he is ready to call it quits, he may do so.

“The Spider” has had a major role in making the UFC one of the biggest sports companies in the world, and this contract is a reward to him. It’s obviously well-deserved, and whenever Silva does decide to retire, nobody will criticize his decision.

Enjoy seeing the greatest mixed martial artist ever, because it may not be too long until he’s on the outside of the cage watching rather than being on the inside putting on a show.

Photo: Anderson Silva (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Corey Adams
Staff Writer

Corey Adams didn't grow up watching mixed martial arts, considering the UFC was just getting started the year he was born, but in his teenage years, witnessed the action and has fallen in love with the sport. Corey was the first to join The MMA Corner staff -- other than founder Josh Davis -- and has been writing for the site ever since. Corey attends Austin Peay State University, where he majors in Communications with a focus on journalism. When he's not covering MMA, Corey is still writing on many sports with both local and campus newspapers. His favorite sports teams are the Atlanta Braves and Denver Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at the link below.