Nine fights. Nine wins, five in the UFC. A victory in his 10th at UFC 162 inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena will make Weidman an instant icon.
“I’ve been through a lot in those nine fights,” Weidman told FOX Sports. “I took a fight against Demian Maia on 10 days’ notice. I had just fractured my ribs in my previous fight (against Tom Lawlor less than three months prior). I took some risks to get this fight. My plan wasn’t just to hang around, hang around and eventually get a chance to fight for a championship.”
Weidman, 29, goes up against Anderson Silva, the UFC’s longest-tenured champ with 10 consecutive title defenses at middleweight and arguably the organization’s greatest fighter in its history. The question as whether Weidman deserves this title short so quickly in his career has seemingly been answered by his peers.
“I believe it’s a bad matchup for Anderson Silva,” longtime UFC welterweight champ George St-Pierre said. “Anderson’s weaknesses are Weidman’s strengths. I’ve trained with Weidman and his wrestling is on another level. Not only is Chris Weidman going to beat Anderson Silva, I believe he’s going to finish Anderson. I believe it’s not going to last too long, this fight.”
Weidman appreciates the backing from St-Pierre, Kenny Florian, Chael Sonnen and others.
“I have a lot of faith in myself,” Weidman said. “Still, it gives me a boost of confidence when GSP and other guys in the sport believe in me. A lot of the guys who have faith in me are guys who have seen me in the gym and know how hard I work. They know my skills. They respect the fact I’ve taken fights on short notice. I’m glad they see something in me.”
Since this is Weidman’s first entry atop a UFC card, this will be his first five-round fight — even if he said he doesn’t expect Anderson will last all five rounds. That’s meant minor alterations to his training camp ahead of this weekend’s bout.
“I have no trouble with endurance,” Weidman said. “That’s one of my greatest assets. I can push the pace for five rounds. No matter how long it goes, I want to break the other guy before he breaks you.”
And then there were changes in training to adjust to the UFC’s top pound-for-pound fighter. His trainer, Ray Longo, found sparring partners to mirror Silva’s style and Weidman’s diet was overseen by a nutritionist.
“We brought in a couple of different guys for the first time in my career,” Weidman said on a recent conference call with reporters. “The main guy that did a good job at emulating (Silva) was Steve ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. He has unorthodox striking and it was definitely good preparation of this fight.”
Weidman said he’s studied Silva’s long career, but he took notice, understandably, one fight in particular: Silva’s first bout against Sonnen, who came within seconds of dethroning Silva three years ago.
“I believed I could beat (Silva) before that fight,” Weidman said. “I think the main thing I learned from that is that I thought Chael was a little bit too uptight and tense when he got the takedown.”
Unlike Sonnen, Weidman is confident that he can earn a stoppage against Silva — something that’s happened only twice (outside a disqualification for an illegal quick) in his 37-fight pro career that began in 1997.
“I’m going to finish him,” Weidman told FOX Sports. “I think with my game and what I bring to the table that I have a good chance to do it. I think I can shock the world and I’m excited to go out there and prove that.”