For years, Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva has been an icon in the world of mixed martial arts. Time and time again, Silva has delivered fan pleasing performances, by always putting forth 100% effort into every fight, and having the vast majority of his bouts end with a crowd pleasing KO or submission.

In fact, Silva even owns the impressive statistic of having the most combined MMA victories and knockouts in PRIDE FC and UFC history, with 25 victories and 17 knockouts. However, after having 16 years in the professional world of mixed martial arts, a total of 46 MMA battles, and a career record of 34-11-1 (1NC), has the time come for Wanderlei Silva to hang up his gloves?

The one time brutal knockout specialist and intimidator has now reached arguably the lowest point of his professional fight career. In recent UFC bouts, Silva has appeared to be a bit lackluster, displaying only a fragment of the typical dominant aggressive style that fans have grown accustomed to with a Wanderlei Silva fight. Having lost six of his last nine professional bouts, including a disappointing four losses out of his last seven UFC matchups, Silva has been on a downward spiral, leaving many to questions whether “The Axe Murderer” is still capable of performing on a high level, and if he still simply has what it takes to be a true title contender.

As is the case with most fighters, Silva is still confident in his abilities, and maintains the typical fighter persona of a never quit attitude. With all of the blood, sweat, and tears that a fighter sacrifices for the life of a professional mixed martial artists, it is understanding that most fighters would prefer to be carried out on their shield after going down swinging. It’s simply hard to let go. It is also difficult for fans to let go of Silva, as he has brought so many entertaining fights over the last 16 years, and has earned the respect of MMA fans world wide.

Silva has achieved nearly every possible formal acknowledgment in PRIDE FC, where he was simply defined as a fighting legend. In the UFC, Silva has earned “KO of the Night” honors (one time), “Fight of the Night” honors (three times), “Fight of the Year” (2007 – vs. Chuck Liddell), and “KO of the Year” (2008 – vs. Keith Jardine). Additionally, of Silva’s 31 professional MMA victories, 27 have come by way of KO or submission, clearly making Silva one of those fighters that fans just love to watch.

Much like Brett Favre was considered to be the last of the gunslingers amongst NFL quarterbacks, Silva is viewed as one of the last true sluggers and brawlers in the world of MMA, who consistently brings a rare level of aggression, intensity, and brutality with him into each fight. How else does one assume the nickname of “The Axe Murderer?”

However, father time catches up with everyone. At nearly 36 years of age, and a constant flood of new impressive young talent joining the MMA fight game, it may finally be time for Silva to seriously consider retiring as a fighter. Having lost six of his last nine bouts, and losing four of those fights by way of knockout, the focus now has to shift to Silva’s legacy, as well as his general overall safety. It is never good to see a legend go on beyond their time, or to witness them endure unnecessary punishment or injury. I am sure that MMA fans around the globe would agree that a better fate is desired for the legendary Silva.

Still considered as a severely tough matchup for anyone in his weight class, Silva continues on his path as a professional fighter, and likely still has his eyes on another title shot before officially calling it quits. At the upcoming UFC 147 event to be held in Brazil on Saturday, June 23, 2012, Silva will once again have the opportunity to solidify his presence in the UFC, as well as his rights to still be considered a true contender, when he meets Rich Franklin at a catch weight fight at 190lbs.

This is a rematch from UFC 99, where Franklin won via unanimous decision, and the fight earned the UFC “Fight of the Night” honors for Silva and Franklin’s performance. Depending on how the fight pans out this time, fans and analysts may get a more definitive viewpoint as to where Silva stands within the UFC, and if retirement should be taken into serious consideration.

From a personal standpoint, this writer would like to see Silva continue his career in the MMA world. However, depending on the results form the UFC 147 matchup, it may be as a coach/trainer, and no longer as a fighter. I for one, would be extremely excited to see what would result if a young athletic fighter were to become the official Silva protégé. Any young fighter with Silva’s guidance, and direct access to his insight and invaluable years of experience, would truly bring promise and excitement to the MMA population.

The Silva name has always brought fans to the edge of their seats, yelling to their television sets while eagerly awaiting the slow motion replay of his devastation in action. Perhaps that trend can live on for a hungry fighter under Silva’s tutelage?

I suppose that we will all have to wait and see what Silva has for us at UFC 147. With the fight being in Brazil, there is certainly expected to be a huge fan presence in support of Silva, which may put a little extra pep in the step of the aging knockout specialist.

If Silva is to win in impressive fashion against Franklin, then most fans will likely be in full support of him continuing his legendary career. However, if Silva takes yet another loss, and if he gets KO’d yet again, then it may just be time to take off the gloves and pick up the coach’s whistle. Guess we’ll all just have to wait and see what await us on June 23.