The Anderson Silva era in the UFC lasted for nearly seven years and it was a reign of destruction the likes MMA has rarely, if ever, seen before. Silva tore through the middleweight division like a knife through tissue paper, destroying every contender the UFC could throw at him including a couple of 205-pound fighters along the way as well.
But then in 2012, a brash New Yorker named Chris Weidman came along and started talking about how he was going to be the guy to dethrone Silva. At this point in his career, Weidman was undefeated with a 8-0 record, but his biggest win had come on short notice in a pretty forgettable three round bout against Demian Maia on national TV. Fast forward seven months and Weidman made short work of Mark Munoz with a devastating second round elbow strike that knocked the former NCAA champion out cold.
Again, Weidman was chirping quite loudly about how he was the guy that was going to dethrone Anderson Silva.
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Finally in the middle of 2013, Weidman got his shot and it seemed all of predictions were prophetic in nature as he dismantled the greatest fighter of all time, first by taking him down and mauling him on the mat before landing a knockout blow in the second round to shock the world.
The stories post fight rang out that Silva screwed around and danced his way into a knockout, so Weidman prepared to do it all over again. While no one could predict that Silva would shatter his leg in the second round while throwing a kick, the rematch looked eerily similar to the first fight with Weidman dominating early and looking for the finish in the second round.
I want to be known as one of the greatest of all time. To do that, I’ve got a current list of guys in front of me in my weight class to fight and beat that can give me a legacy
— Chris Weidman
Now for the first time in over two years, Weidman’s no longer banging the drum while talking about how he’s going to be the man to dethrone Silva. The king has been conquered, the crown handed over to a new champion and as much as Weidman celebrates his own reign as middleweight champion it’s still a little sad to put everything Anderson Silva behind him.
"I’m happy to move past it, but it’s also kind of a bummer to move past Anderson Silva because it was a big part of my life," Weidman told the Great MMA Debate podcast. "I was visualizing fighting that guy since I got into the sport. So he was a big motivating factor in my life for a long time so to move past it is kind of bittersweet. Now I get to start my own era and show everybody what I’m made of."
The improbable run Weidman made to beat Silva was awe inspiring, but also to the point where it was almost unbelievable that he could do it. It was like watching a rookie player dunk on Michael Jordan. It was a first time Major Leaguer slamming homerun after homerun off of Randy Johnson like it was no big deal. It had to be a fluke. There’s now way this guy with nine fights could beat Anderson Silva twice in the span of seven months after he was undefeated for more than seven years.
So as Weidman approaches his next fight against Lyoto Machida at UFC 175 this weekend, he still has something to prove. He wants to showcase that beating Anderson Silva isn’t the crowning achievement of his career — it was merely the start of his own legacy. Beating the greatest of all time is something to be proud about, but it’s just the spark of what Weidman hopes to one day build into a raging inferno of a career marked by championship wins and a reign outlasting his predecessor.
"I want to be known as one of the greatest of all time," Weidman said. "To do that, I’ve got a current list of guys in front of me in my weight class to fight and beat that can give me a legacy. My goal — I’ve just got to keep winning. Keep winning fights. Hold on to the belt as long as possible. Clear out the division, maybe some super fights and call it a day.
"To be on the top you have to be confident. It’s up to you if you want to say that you’re confident out loud and in public with it. I’m just being truthful."
The start of the Weidman era sounds notoriously like words that once dripped from the mouth of UFC color commentator Joe Rogan when Lyoto Machida won the UFC light heavyweight title by knocking out Rashad Evans. "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Machida era!’ Rogan proclaimed.
One fight later, Machida was winning a very close, controversial decision over Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and a lone fight after that he was already done as champion when he was knocked out in their rematch. Call it a cautionary tale for any fighter who talks about legacy or an era before cementing their spot atop the sport.
Weidman is well aware of the pitfalls that come along with mentioning words like ‘the greatest of all time’ and ‘the Weidman era’ but he’s confident that he can keep the momentum from his two wins over Silva while also dispatching of Machida to secure his spot as the best middleweight in the world.
"Stylistically, (Machida) is going to be the same as he was at 205. Going down might make him feel a little quicker, a little stronger and maybe give him more confidence. I’m expecting a very confident Lyoto Machida, but I’m going to break his will," Weidman said.
"I feel like anyone at middleweight, when I have a full training camp, I’m going to go out there and finish them. That’s my mentality. I won’t stop. The whole fight will be me trying to finish him. If it goes five rounds, I’m not losing the decision because I’m almost finishing him the whole time. I’m always prepared for a war, but I’m looking for the finish the whole time. I won’t be happy unless I finish him."
And when the fight with Machida is finished, Weidman will have another challenge standing in front of him from former champion Vitor Belfort, who appears to be next in line for a shot at the belt. Weidman and Belfort were already supposed to fight previously, but the Brazilian was yanked from the fight when the Nevada State Athletic Commission banned testosterone replacement therapy — a treatment Belfort had been on for the last couple of years.
It also didn’t help matters much that Belfort tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone earlier this year, and still has to appear in front of the commission before being licensed to fight in Nevada again. All those reasons combined give Weidman plenty of pause about addressing Belfort because the truth is there’s nothing etched in stone that they’ll ever face each other in the Octagon.
Weidman would rather worry about Machida, and then whoever else the UFC puts in front of him, but he’s definitely not losing sleep about fighting or not fighting Vitor Belfort.
"Honestly, I haven’t been thinking about Vitor. He has his own issues he has to deal with," Weidman said. "Lyoto Machida’s the guy I’m thinking about. I have no dreams of fighting Vitor Belfort. If it were Anderson Silva it would be a different story, but Vitor Belfort is not one of the guys I’m thinking about fighting every day."