Weidman was not happy UFC nearly introduced interim title
As tough as it’s been to wait on the UFC middleweight title to be defended again, it’s been even harder on champion Chris Weidman.
The undefeated title-holder has been out of action since July, when he defeated Lyoto Machida for the second defense of his belt since taking it from Anderson Silva in 2013.
He was scheduled to face top-ranked contender Vitor Belfort in December 2014 before a broken hand forced him out of the fight, and then Weidman suffered a rib injury that caused another setback to the bout in February.
Weidman joins heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez on a short list of competitors often touted as being some of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport if only they could stay healthy.
Weidman doesn’t let the injury talk get him down, however, because that’s just part of what it takes to fight at his level. He’s healthy now and ready to defend his belt at UFC 187 against Belfort.
That’s all that matters to him.
"I mean, we’re in a tough sport. We’re always coming back from injuries, so it’s just like my wrestling background," Weidman said on a recent media conference call. "You get hurt and you become stronger from it, and obviously I hurt my ribs. And it wasn’t — they healed pretty well. It healed fast, and I’ve had no issues in training again with the ribs. So no, I’m not worried about any ring rust, no worries about my ribs at all. So all good."
Weidman did get a little concerned after his rib injury happened when the UFC talked to him about possibly introducing an interim title while he was out.
Lorenzo (Fertitta) and Dana (White) they mentioned to me on the phone (about an interim title) and I was kind of caught off guard with it.
— Chris Weidman
Belfort was still healthy in February, and he was itching for a shot at the title. So, according to Weidman, the promotion talked about putting an interim championship up for grabs despite the fact that he had actually only been out of action for about seven months.
"Lorenzo (Fertitta) and Dana (White), they mentioned to me on the phone (about an interim title), and I was kind of caught off guard with it because I started thinking, ‘What does it really matter if they do an interim?’ I understand business-wise they’ve got to sell a fight, but then what if one of those guys get hurt? When am I going to be able to fight again? I don’t want to wait too long," Weidman said.
"So that was the biggest issue, because I was going to be ready to fight in May, and if they have another fight that happens in May, then when are they going to be really able to have me fight for the title? So I’m just happy everything played out the way it played out because it gives me an opportunity to stay in the fight and keep fighting and making that money."
The UFC ultimately decided against an interim title, and now Weidman will finally face Belfort in a bout that’s two years in the making.
When the bout first came together following Belfort’s three-fight winning streak that included knockouts over Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson, he seemed like the most dangerous contender the middleweight division could possibly muster.
Now, as he approaches the fight at UFC 187, Belfort will walk into the Octagon as a decided underdog with nearly 5-1 odds in favor of the champion. Weidman cautions anyone who is counting Belfort out to think again.
Weidman said he has no doubt he’s going to walk out of Las Vegas with the title belt around his waist, but this will be anything but an easy win.
"He’s a guy who is on a three-fight winning streak. He’s never looked better," Weidman said. "People, I think, are forgetting about that because he’s been out for so long. And I’m prepared for the best Vitor we’ve ever seen and I knew at some point we would have to face each other. It’s inevitable."