In July 2012, Chris Weidman took less than seven minutes to dispatch Mark Munoz in their main event bout at UFC on Fuel TV 4. Once he had the microphone in front of his face, he took even less time to tell the world what he wanted next.
"I want Anderson Silva," Weidman said. "Every time I've had a full training camp, I've gotten a finish. Give me a full training camp, and I'd love a shot at the man, Anderson Silva. I really think I could do pretty good. So give me a shot, please."
Weidman's declaration came just days after Silva had annihilated Chael Sonnen for his 10th consecutive title defense—and for those counting, that's one more fight than Weidman has in his nine-fight career.
Weidman's statements came on stronger while Silva was fighting Stephan Bonnar on short notice and contemplating superfights with Georges St-Pierre and Jon Jones. He said he was a "nightmare matchup" for Silva and the champion's "biggest threat" since winning the belt in 2006.
The statements were shocking—who is Weidman, a fighter with five total fights in the UFC, to call out the greatest of all time?
Chris Weidman? Who's he fought? He beat a fat Mark Munoz, who was coming off an injury, out of shape, he looked unfocused. He beat Demian Maia, who's fighting at 170 pounds now, in one of the most boring fights I've ever seen. Before those two fights, no one at this table knew who the f*** Chris Weidman was, and now he's the best middleweight in the world?
Even Silva's managers weighed in, saying Weidman wasn't "ripe enough" and his nine fights were half of what their champion had in his UFC career alone.
Weidman wasn't about to be deterred, so he campaigned to not only get the fight with Silva but to be the first person since Ryo Chonan in 2004 to finish the Brazilian. Clearly, he wasn't going to stand in awe of Silva's greatness, and today, he stands by everything he's said about the UFC's middleweight champion.
"I think what just got people going is my confidence," Weidman told Bleacher Report. "I'm not going to take that back, because I truly am confident. There should be no reason that I'm fighting if I wasn't confident. I have a lot of respect for Anderson Silva, but I'm confident I can beat him—and I think that's what gets people all up in arms, because they can't believe that I would have the disrespect to think that I could beat Anderson Silva. I earned this opportunity and I'm going to go in there and make the best of it."
It would be hard to find any kind of inflammatory statement coming from the New York native's mouth prior to his win over Munoz. He was as quiet as a church mouse in comparison to Sonnen and Bisping, who lit up the room like comedians whenever the camera was on them.
A year ago, however, Weidman realized that to get the champion's attention, he had to do more than just win fights. Every time he had an interview or made an appearance, he sounded off on why he was best suited to dethrone Silva.
It was a little out of character, and looking back, even he admits that you probably won't hear anything like that from him again. But it got the job done.
"I don't like being too vocal. I want to be a humble champion—and I'm not in this sport, no disrespect to Chael Sonnen, he does a great job, but to be a Chael Sonnen," Weidman said. "I'm in this sport to be a champion and be humble. I'm not here to just make money and to get people to know me by starting drama. I do understand it is an entertainment business so you do have to speak up a little bit."
Weidman would prefer facing opponents in the manner he did while a wrestler at Hofstra. Two men squared off on the mat, and like in most other professional sports, the competitors were whittled down until the best of the best were the only ones left standing.
There was no promotion or hype to make the matches happen. The best became champions, and the rest fell by the wayside.
Weidman knows that mixed martial arts is a different animal and promotion is part of the job. Now that he has the fight with Silva on July 6 and has done the work necessary outside the cage, he's looking forward more than ever to doing his real talking inside the Octagon.
"My whole thing is to do my talking in the cage. That's in a perfect world for me," Weidman stated. "I don't like confrontation or any kind of vocal confrontation. I'd rather just show up in the cage and do my thing. But I have to do a little talking. I get asked questions and I answer truthfully; that's it."
He is quick to shoot down the notion that he'll become a doppelganger to Sonnen regarding pre-fight bluster and trash talk. But he will take one element from the former No. 1 contender that he believes will come in rather handy against Silva at UFC 162.
"Chael hasn't had the best record, he hasn't beat the best guys and he's had some bad losses. He's lost a lot. But he went in there believing he could beat him and he went out there and beat him in more rounds than Anderson beat him," Weidman stated. "I think that was more of a mental win. His mindset is what got him that."
Weidman calls it a "winning mindset," and Sonnen had it both times he faced Silva. Weidman feels that most fighters who fought the champ in the past held him up as a "God-like figure," but Sonnen didn't do that, and it benefited him.
"I think a lot of these guys show too much respect and fear and just kind of wanted to see how they would do against Anderson. This is everything for me. This is a life changer. This is life changing for my family and I'm not going in there to play games or to give him too much respect," Weidman revealed. "I'd be taking away from myself and my family. I'm not going to go in there and letting them down."
As the days wind down until Weidman faces his destiny in Las Vegas, he's not taking back anything he said because it helped him reach this point. He believes he is the only one who can snatch away Silva's title, even if nine others have failed.
Philosopher William James once said, "Belief creates the actual fact," and in Weidman's case, he planted his seed of belief in 2009 when he took his first MMA fight. Now, just over four years later, that belief has sprouted into reality.
"It hasn't just been a year I've been mentally prepared for this fight. It's been since the day I decided to do MMA, I began to mentally prepare for this matchup," Weidman said. "Because Anderson Silva was the champion in my weight class, and when I got into this the only reason I was going to do it was to be champion, to be the best. From that day I've had to condition myself for fighting Anderson Silva and beating Anderson Silva."
No sliver of fear is creeping into Weidman's head as the hours wind down until he's face to face with the greatest fighter in MMA history.
He knows for a fact that when UFC 162 is over, he will have a win over Silva and the middleweight title around his waist.
"I just believe. I'm hungry, I'm young, and I didn't let opportunity slip to get to this point, and I’m not going to let this opportunity slip through my fingers," Weidman said. "I'm just too competitive. I can't wait to make the most of it. I know I belong here. I know what I'm capable of and I'm just ready to get out there and showcase it."
Damon Martin is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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