MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) are bigger than ever. Boxing has taken a back seat and today’s fighting champs are seen as fearless, crazy and monstrous. At a base level, there is no mistaking that the sport is not for everyone. But everyone in the sport is not a monster and the skill, patience and sheer willpower it takes to excel in these endeavors are embodied in the current UFC middle weight champion, Anderson “The Spider” Silva.
Silva is something of a conundrum for the UFC and its promoters. In the octagon (unlike square boxing “rings,” UFC fighters match up in an octagon shaped “ring” enclosed in a chain-link fence), he is a beast. Up until the events “Like Water” focuses on, his matches pretty much never went the full length (only one did) and most of them were over before the first round even ended. Whether it is a flying knee (see above), a perfectly connected punch or strike from his sprawling legs, Silva knocks his opponents out. You are not going to find him on the mat going for the submission; something a lot of UFC fans have come to expect from the sport. Either way, Silva is a poster boy for, “Cannot be beat;” the perfect fighter for the UFC to put in the limelight. Publicly, Silva is soft spoken, quiet and a little bit of an introvert when it comes to promoting himself. He doesn’t like to do interviews, his answers are short, not helpful and often not serious. He just wants to be home with his family and do his job when the time comes; exactly not the perfect personality for the UFC to put in the limelight.
This conflicting issue of a man being one thing while fighting but something else when not, is the main focus of “Like Water.” After a lackluster and controversial performance in UFC 112 where Silva pretty much just danced around the octagon for the final three rounds of his bout, but still winning by decision, questions were raised as to his attitude toward the sport, his opponents and his desire to fight in general. He received a massive backlash from a wide variety of fans and from UFC owner Dana White. In an attempt to rile up Silva and see if he still has the fight in him, White sets up a match for UFC117 in where Silva would go against Chael Sonnen. If Silva pulls the same prank again, White will drop him from the UFC; as shown through an interview done for the film as well as clips of White’s appearance at the time on Jim Rome is Burning.
Sonnen is the kind of pitch man that a sport like the UFC wants. Sort of the Rush Limbaugh of MMA, Sonnen is a loud mouthed, opinionated braggart that never shuts up. He takes as many jabs he can at Silva to promote the fight, but Silva never bites. Sonnen even makes derogatory comments about Brazil, Silva’s home, while making fun of how Silva bows to his opponents like he is a real martial arts mystic; “…if you were to bow to anyone in Brazil they would just hit you over the head and steal your wallet,” Sonnen jests. But Silva never cracks, never shows what he is really thinking. And this is where the dilemma of Silva the fighter versus Silva the man expands. It is his belief that his actions in the octagon will prove his worth. While it may have been a bad decision to act the way he did in UFC112, he still got his job done. He is paid to win fights, and in his mind he did what he had to do to win that fight and he will do what he has to do in this fight to win; his fighting will do the talking, there is no need to say anything else.
If you don’t know what happens in UFC117, Silva Vs. Sonnen; I won’t ruin it. But no matter what your level of interest is in the fight, the sport or the man, “Like Water” has something for everyone. For fans of the sport and the fighter, they will get an inside look and what really goes into the training process and even the thought process for Silva in readying for the fight. If you even wondered why he made certain decisions during that match, it will all become clear, especially when Silva vows to one of his trainers, “I am going to make him submit, no K.O., I’m going to make him tap out.” This film will give everyone who watches it a new perspective on the UFC and MMA.
If you are not a fighting fan who is worried about the amount of violence and blood shown, the film features some of Silva’s signature knockouts to open the film. Other than that, you will see most of the highlights from the Silva Vs. Sonnen fight including some rough hits and cuts to close out the film.
Like water and like the quote from Bruce Lee that the film derives it’s name from; Anderson Silva adapts to whatever environment he is put in. “…put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot…” The container Silva is put in may not be the best at times, leaving you with an underwhelming result. But being adaptable is what keeps him ahead of everyone in the game; so you take the bad containers, just like you take the good ones.
Follow this link to the Tribeca Festival page for “Like Water” to find tickets for remaining showings of the film.