Chris Weidman did the impossible. Then he did it again.
After defeating Anderson Silva on two different occasions, the freshly minted UFC middleweight champion will forever be known as the man who beat the seemingly invincible Brazilian. That’s enough for most to rest their hat on. But not Weidman. His quest to become the greatest of all time has only begun. But what could he possible do for an encore that will prove that both of his wins were not of the fluke variety? How about defend his title against another Brazilian who is considered by many to be the Rubix cube of mixed martial arts: Lyoto Machida?
Weidman will headline his second consecutive 4th of July weekend UFC event when he puts his title and unbeaten record on the line against Machida. A victory will further cement Weidman’s position as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world. It’s necessary considering that he’s still marked as carrying a four leaf clover, a rabbit’s foot and a horseshoe in his back pocket. For Weidman, that couldn’t be further from the truth. “Anytime you beat a legend like Anderson Silva you are going to have a lot of haters who don’t believe you are truly a good fighter; especially with the way the second fight ended,” Weidman says a couple of days before his fight with Machida. He and Silva’s first encounter ended when Weidman caught The Spider in the midst of some horseplay and knocked him out. The rematch ended when Silva broke his leg throwing a kick. Not necessarily the best way to win, but Weidman appeared to be dominating the fight.
“It’s tough for people to accept that I am the true champion and not feel that I got lucky,” the 30-year-old continues. “I’ve been in there with him for four rounds and he never had me in an uncomfortable position. The second fight I dropped him in the first round before he broke his leg and the first fight I knocked him out. I’m secure in my victories but there are still a lot of people that I have to prove wrong.” The first step in silencing the naysayers is beating Machida. The former UFC light heavyweight champion has seen a successful return on his investment after choosing to drop down to middleweight last October. After starting his career with sixteen straight wins and claiming the 205-pound title, Machida would lose four of his next seven – two controversial decisions and two definitive knockout losses – and decided a change needed to be made. A drop to 185 has seen Machida win two straight fights and become the elusive karate fighter that found success five years ago.
But just like his showdowns with Silva, Weidman isn’t concerned with Machida’s aura of mysteriousness that is attached to his name. “I don’t look at one fighter and decide what I’m going to do because he’s obviously going to change plans against me,” Weidman says as he readily admits to not watching very much tape on his opponents. “I’m more worried about what I’m going to do to him than what he’s might do to me.” If he sounds a tad arrogant, that’s because he is. The two-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler who graduated from Hofstra with a bachelor’s degree in psychology is all about the mental aspect of fighting. To believe in yourself and not being caught up in the hype of an opponent is the first step in Weidman’s winning mentality. Even before he fought Anderson Silva, Weidman knew how it was going to play out.
“I had a vision: Beat Anderson Silva and then beat him again,” Weidman explains. Although it sounded ridiculous at the time, his vision came to fruition and he has the hardware to prove it. But now the real fight begins. “That’s where my vision was ending. As soon as I beat him a second time I realized that I have more goals.
What are those goals, exactly?
“I want to completely dominate my division and set myself completely apart from everyone else; I want to finish everyone that I fight; I want a couple of super fights; I want to become recognized as one of the greatest of all time and call it a day. That’s not too much, right?” Weidman has always bitten off more than others thought he could chew only to chew it up and spit it out with authority. For example, after one-year of formal jiujitsu training, Weidman entered the 2009 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship and made it to the quarterfinals before losing to world-renowned jiujitsu practitioner Andre Galvao. Most grapplers train for years before entering that type of competition. Weidman found success after 12 months.
When UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was left without an opponent less than a week before he was scheduled to defend at UFC 151, guess who asked for the fight?
“Before they cancelled UFC 151, I wanted to step up and fight Jon Jones,” Weidman reveals. “But it really didn’t make sense for Jon Jones to accept the fight because I was a no name at that point but I asked for it. I always want to fight the best guys in the business.” He is no longer a no-name MMA fighter and isn’t totally against the idea of fighting Jon Jones in a superfight. But first, he has business to take care of as a middleweight and it starts with Machida.
“I have a lot of work to do at middleweight before I can even think about a superfight,” Weidman admits. But he’ll never turn down an opponent. And with a long line of middleweights weighting for a crack at the champ, he’s getting used to the idea that he has become the UFC’s golden goose. “I’m the champion and I want to be on the biggest cards with the biggest fights possible,” he says. “Once you get the taste of being on a big card, you don’t want to go backwards.”