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SportsColumnistsMark La Monica

Anderson Silva was an idol for many in MMA, including Uriah Hall

Anderson Silva reacts after his loss to Uriah

Anderson Silva reacts after his loss to Uriah Hall in a middleweight bout during UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on Saturday in Las Vegas. Credit: Zuffa LLC via Getty Images/Handout

The moments of action inside the cage often dictate how we look back at a mixed martial arts fight. The big punch, the wild kick, the slick submission. They replay on "SportsCenter." They loop on social media. They get cut up, remixed and repackaged on clip shows.

They are the highlights.

But for Uriah Hall vs. Anderson Silva, the moments we should look back on now, and in the future, came after the fight. After the kicks, after the punches. After Hall stopped his idol in the fourth round, emotions took over.

Hall cried. Then, he apologized to Silva for stopping him in what was the former middleweight champion’s last fight in the UFC.

"I told him I was sorry for knocking him out," Hall said after the fight Saturday night at UFC Apex in Las Vegas. "I felt bad. Leading up to the fight was a lot of emotions. We all know Anderson is a ‘G’ and what he’s done for the sport. A guy like me, that he inspired years ago as a kid, I think I was maybe 22, it was hard. It was hard to kind of separate those emotions, fighting your idol, beating him up and potentially kill him, it was weird."

When idols turn to rival, it indeed gets weird.

Hall, like so many who compete or train in martial arts, or follow MMA as a fan, can point to Silva as the pivotal person in beginning their journey. For Hall, he saw in Silva a person he wanted to train with, to emulate. We all saw Silva for what we saw from Silva: the highlight-reel finishes, the creative striking, the elusiveness, the showmanship, the 10 straight title defenses, the reigning over an entire division for seven years and a UFC record 2,457 consecutive days.

Yet there, inside the octagon on Saturday night, were Hall and Silva, on their knees in an embrace with the 45-year-old lion passing on advice to the 36-year-old fighter who has had his ups and downs in the sport but now carries a three-fight win streak into 2021.

"It was an incredible moment we both shared," Hall said. "He was thanking me and I was like what are you talking about, bro?"

Thanking him for that right hook in the fourth round that dropped him (and the one in the third that did the same thing) and the follow-up strikes that ended both the bout and Silva’s storied UFC career? Not the typical post-fight exchange between fighters. But this wasn’t the typical fight. It’s not every Saturday night when the narrative going into the main event is a legend’s last walk to the octagon to face an idolizing opponent.

Hall said he woke up Saturday struggling with the emotions of what was to come at night.

"I know the job was to go out there and get the W, but to separate those emotions, that was work itself," Hall said. "I was just honored to share that moment with him."

Is it the last moment for Silva in the UFC?

"I’m enjoying my moment," Silva said. "Sometimes it’s very difficult for us to stop, but today is the final day, and I am so happy to be here and doing my last show for my fans here in UFC, for UFC family."

UFC president Dana White confirmed that Silva won’t fight again in the UFC, despite having one more fight on his contract. "I shouldn’t have let him fight tonight," White said.

But have we seen the last of Silva (34-11, 1 no contest) in MMA?

"I don’t know," Silva said. "It’s tough to say it’s my last or not … This is what I do for my entire life, and do it with my heart, let’s go see."

Hall (16-9) will fight again, despite White calling him "one of the most gun-shy fighters in the UFC" during his post-fight media availability.

Hall, who grew up in Queens after emigrating from Jamaica as a boy, trains out of Dallas with Fortis MMA under Sayif Saud. Both Hall and Saud say the structure of their gym has helped Hall merge his talent and his mindset into a formidable foe for middleweights. Hall has one middleweight in mind, in particular — the champion, which right now is Israel Adesanya.

"To me that was my championship win," Hall said of beating Silva. "But obviously the champ, Izzy, that’s the guy I want. I know he danced with him, I finished him. That says a lot.

"I definitely know I can take on the champ. In the meantime if the UFC wants to give me someone, or if they think they can send someone to beat me, that’s not a problem. My goals are set, and it remains the same: to be the champ."

New York Sports