I am really hesitant to make a reply, as I am cautioned by assumptions of a possible precarious inducement. On that caveat, I will afford the benefit of the doubt my assumptions are wrong with a productive positive exchange of ideas with this reply. My personal opinion isn't necessary the same as my professional definition of aiki. My personal opinion was crafted to fit the thread.
Simply it was nothing more in my response than expressing my opinion of who I thought was the greatest martial artist. An unorthodox choice of Ali may have taken some by surprise, by all rights and definitions he is a martial artist.
The addition of a secondary comment to may have gone unnoticed, of what I term as generational lapse. Whereby, for example, what is commonly familiar by a previous generation which becomes the foundation for the development of something important to the proceeding generation they have have further improved. Most 15 years don't know what floppy disk, or a ZIP drive are, those 30 and older do. Ask any 15 year old what a CD and USB drives are, and they can tell you. Generational lapse happens in martial arts as well. Allow me to extrapolate.
Before Silva there was Ali and before Ali there was Osensei before him....Mushashi. No matter what label or term placed on fighting principles it is the person who can put it all together and utilize them in such away it seems effortless, like magic dominating most others with exceptional talent and skill who are termed the greatest.
I really have no inclination to who knows what and how much. Surely I have no interest in partaking in internet contests of budo knowledge. Virtual combat is just what it is, virtual. A martial arts fanatic. as I am, studying Aikido as a hobby besides other arts, my profession is being a sports coach. Before coaching, it was being a top amateur competitive athlete. It all has taught me a great deal what "aiki" is or isn't, among a myriad of other things. My experience both in life and career leads me to similar holistic conclusions as Musashi did. Mushashi's experience lead him to suggest the study of other crafts and professions to get insight on swordsmenship. Insights applied to most everything that still hold water today. It is not simply cross training, which has different intent. No, it is about seeing similarities of what works and what doesn't, regardless of sport or art. A point Bruce Lee made when he utilize the Ali shuffle.
My other comments are less detailed. First, nothing is learned over night. You can't teach talent, either some have it or they don't. There are those who need lots of instruction, not equaling the results in the effort to teach the skill. No magic bullets, just tweaks. Those who are talented and gifted go far with the tweaks. Those who lack talent and skill don't go as far with the same tweaks. They often need more than just a tweak to raise to common play. If you are a coach you know what I mean, by all that. You just can't teach talent. Hard work and mental toughness and the right attitude is essential to good performance. No tweak or coaching will fix the lack of that in any athlete, because it is essential to improvement and progress. Second, Budo isn't that complicated, it isn't that sophisticated. It is ancient Japanese combat methods, because if it was complex you could train a broad group of varying individuals to preform their duty. Combat skills where simple enough. Only the talented and the gifted survived living to the next day, and the weak fell. Survival of the fittest. Japanese combat skills where turned to an art, and that is where they got complicated, and in my opinion overly complicated. It is my suspicion it was for exploitation as students where not turned out to the battlefield on demand. They longer you dragged things out, and complex they became the long the students stayed. The sensei would profit financially and by reputation. I would be wrong not to mention for the purpose of preservation of combat skills by way of Japanese style sport, termed Budo. Something, no different than the evolution of modern sports the world enjoys.
Modern sports science is far beyond anything developed in budo. Let's face it, Budo is antiquated on many levels, yet it is what BJJ and MMA is built on. Goes without say, generational lapse applies here too. Most top and pro athletes today would have been the greatest warriors far beyond those of the past like Mushashi. Most practitioners of martial arts are wooed by the mystical asian warrior syndrome. A syndrome selling to millions of people over the centuries martial arts, until the advent of BJJ. In the same way, the term of aiki is an antiquated term that has become commercial value like many other antiquated information and terms relating to budo and other Asian concepts and terms have. Therefore, it is hard to know what budo really means, since many are sold on it. Far too many teachers and leaders in martial arts commercialize it and exploit it to there gain, something Mushashi also mentioned as it happened in his day. OTOH, modern sports philosophy and science can be applied to the martial arts no matter the style. The results built on budo still incorporate the methods and skills from ancient warriors which hasn't changed, but has been advanced by modern sports and science to levels beyond those of budo. It really doesn't matter if people understand budo, today unless they want to preserve the Japanese past. It would be my remiss if I didn't say this includes the good with the bad, dragging out the instruction by making the art overly difficult for personal gain.
My personal opinion differs greatly than my professional opinion. I curtailed my personal opinion to fit the thread.
From the peanut gallery, I shouted Ali was the greatest martial artist of our time. Ask me who was the most influential, hmmm..... either Osensei or Bruce Lee. A statement better made over a few beers and a game of Texas hold'em with the guys. That would be after debating who is hotter, Megan Fox or Angelina Jolie.