LAS VEGAS – Six months has changed little for Chris Weidman. He'll walk to the cage last and be introduced last Saturday at UFC 168 at the MGM Grand Garden, but otherwise, not much is different from every other fight he's ever had.
Weidman holds the UFC's middleweight belt, courtesy of a dramatic knockout victory of long-time champion Anderson Silva at UFC 162 in July. The public perception, though, is that Silva lost that bout, not so much that Weidman won it.
Silva repeatedly put his hands at his side and stuck out his chin, and in the second round, Weidman managed to catch him with a punishing left hand. That led to a stunning knockout and ended Silva's long and glorious reign atop not only the UFC's middleweight division but also over the sport, as well.
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Silva, though, remains the favorite in the rematch. And Silva is the one accorded the respect given the champion.
Weidman is not the kind of guy who is bothered by such things. If he's to become a popular champion, it's going to be for the way he always goes for the finish and tries to be an exciting fighter, not for a public persona.
He's a quiet, soft-spoken guy who also happens to be one of the world's greatest fighters.
It's unfair to suggest his title victory was a fluke. Silva for years had thrust his chin forward others, and no one was able to do what Weidman was able to do.
Plus, it's not as if Weidman wasn't trying to land the left on the chin. When one throws a punch at a target, it can't be considered a fluke when it lands.
Still, Weidman's not the type to make a stink about it. He's simply going to go for a repeat, to end any of the silly debate about whether he got lucky.
Silva is the greatest fighter who ever lived, and he could step up his game and win the rematch, but he's unlikely to win the rematch if he doesn't find an area to improve. If everything goes the same way, figure on another Weidman win.
"I know it's going to be a better version of me," Weidman said. "For the last [fight with Silva], I went through Hurricane Sandy, I had two surgeries, a year layoff, and … for that fight I had no excuses in my mind why I should lose.
"… For this fight there's really no excuses for me to lose. It's perfect timing. I'm completely healthy. I haven't gotten out of shape since the last fight. So I was able to work on a lot of different things for this camp and it really changed a lot. … I just feel like a lot better and complete fighter."
The most difficult thing for a champion to do is to defend the belt. The champion always has a bull's-eye on his or her back and, generally speaking, the title fight is the biggest for the opponent, but not necessarily for the champion.
If Weidman loses on Saturday, his victory could be chalked up as a mistake by Silva. So Weidman will fight with the incentive of trying to beat the great one again in order to prove his own worth.
"I feel the same as a lot of the other champions. I feel like to solidify my championship, I need to defend my belt," Weidman said. "And especially, going at the same guy, you know, everybody saying it was a fluke. But it's not really extra pressure, it's just more motivation to go out there and prove those guys wrong.
"It's exciting, you know? I'm excited to go out there and prove them wrong. There's really not any extra pressure. I really don't put pressure on myself."
There's no need for Weidman to feel pressure, because he's never had a UFC bout that was remotely close. He's 6-0 in the UFC, and only two of them went to decision. He was dominant in those wins and finished the others.
When you've beaten the man generally regarded as the best who ever lived at what he does, there's no reason to be concerned or fearful of anything.
Still, Silva didn't get to be the greatest ever without showing that he can raise his game when he needs to do so. And if Silva ever needed to raise his game, it is the bout with Weidman on Saturday.
So, Weidman is smart enough to know to expect an even better version of Silva this time around, but he's not about to stress over it.
He doesn't have to worry about rebuilding his home and recovering from an injury and burying an uncle, like he did before the first fight. He just has to go out and fight this time.
"It's the same mentality going into this as the last one," he said. "It's a better situation for me this time with not having that long layoff and Hurricane Sandy and everything else. So it's just a better situation. It's been no lack of motivation."