When Chris Weidman sat down to watch Rashad Evans fight Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156, he had keen interest in the outcome.
A week before, UFC executives Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta sat down with the 28-year-old fighter and his manager to discuss his career, which in the past year had undergone all the sudden twists and momentum shifts of a good MMA fight.
The undefeated Weidman had hit a career-high with a second-round TKO of Mark Munoz, only to injure his shoulder prior to a fight with Tim Boetsch that promised to bring him closer to a title shot against champ Anderson Silva. Then Hurricane Sandy blew threw New York and inundated his house. And there were other middleweights, such as Michael Bisping, that looked like ready-made contenders. Stability was not in his corner.
Then Bisping lost, clearing his way for the opportunity of a lifetime. But there was another contingency in play: Evans.
“[White and Fertitta] said, ‘It’s between you and Rashad,’” remembered Weidman. “If he had a devastating knockout, they didn’t say it was going to him, but I assumed.”
But as unlucky as the past year had been for Weidman, he saw things turn around when the former light-heavyweight champion engaged with Nogueira.
“As that fight was going on, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m probably getting the shot,’” he said.
Still, Weidman assumed other things could go wrong. He had gotten his hopes up to face Silva “a million times” and didn’t want excitement to get the better of him. Something else could get in the way.
“But now, it’s a done deal,” said Weidman, whose meeting with “The Spider” was set for UFC 162 was set in early March. “Hopefully.”
Weidman’s optimism, although unwavering when it comes to how he’d fare against Silva, remains cautious. Recent events have done little to bolster his confidence – early this week, the Brazilian middleweight champ, who’s defended his title a staggering 10 times, missed a media day in Los Angeles to promote the July 6 fight, which takes place at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The UFC fined Silva $50,000 for the misstep.
Silva (33-4 MMA, 16-0 UFC), who splits his time between the Los Angeles area and Rio de Janeiro, claimed he didn’t know about his PR duties until he was en route to the airport for a trip back to his native country.
But that’s not much consolation to Weidman (9-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC), who said the champ should be treated like any other fighter when it comes to the press.
“I just want to make sure we both get in the fricken’ cage July 6,” he said. “I’m still worried about that.”
The incident made the contender wonder whether there were other surprises in store – an injury, for instance, which not only would dash his dreams but give the UFC a conniption.
“I don’t want him to hear this interview and be like, ‘Oh, that’s a good idea,’” joked Weidman. “So don’t use this, Anderson.”
Weidman plans to start his training camp next Monday. He said he plans to recruit exceptional grapplers and exceptional strikers, rather than look for fighters that can do both. Emulating Silva is just impossible.
In the meantime, Weidman, who was a psychology major at Hofstra University, is reading books about winning to keep his mind in check.
For the latest on UFC 162, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
(Pictured: Anderson Silva)