Anderson Silva has been on the mind of Chris Weidman for years.
"When I started MMA, I wasn't going to fight at all if I didn't think I could beat the best," said Weidman, a Baldwin native and the UFC's No. 1 middleweight contender. "And he was the best at my weight class, at 185, and I knew I could beat him. Now I'm going to have the opportunity to prove I can beat him."
Weidman spent four years dreaming of fighting Silva, the UFC middleweight champion who hasn't lost a fight in seven years. Weidman spent the past few months campaigning to fight Silva, winner of 16 straight bouts. Weidman spent Thursday in a calm state -- after hugging his boss, UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta -- upon learning his "dream come true" fight is set for July 6 at UFC 162 in Las Vegas.
"Just relief," Weidman said about hearing the news, which was first reported by Newsday.
Relief is something Weidman, 28, hasn't had much of since knocking out Mark Munoz last July. His home on the water in Baldwin Harbor was severely damaged by superstorm Sandy. He recently moved back into the second floor. The first floor is still under construction.
A few weeks after Sandy, Weidman (9-0, 5-0 UFC) tore the right labrum in his shoulder while training in Arizona and required surgery. That forced him to pull out of a December fight against Tim Boetsch.
The shoulder is near 100 percent, and Weidman said his doctor cleared him to resume training at close to full intensity. So, that light Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu work will become live BJJ training. That "play sparring" will turn serious boxing. The wrestling -- Weidman was a two-time All-American at Hofstra -- will be full-force.
Silva (33-4, 16-0) and his camp toyed with giving Weidman a title shot the past few months, saying they only want "big fights" against marquee fighters. With his pedigree, Silva, 37, can make those demands.
"I have this dream fight on the horizon now," Weidman said. "It's going to be a challenge for me to beat the greatest of all time. A lot of people think I'm going to get killed and that just fires me up. It really fires me up because I know the only way I lose this fight is because I lost it myself, and I lost confidence."
Silva is unquestionably the best (fighter)n the history of MMA. He's the standard-bearer for 185-pounders, if not all fighters. He is a creative and powerful striker. He lands 67.8 percent of significant strikes, the best in UFC history according to Fight Metric. His 17 knockdowns are also best in the business. Twenty of his career wins ended by knockout or TKO.
Weidman isn't swayed by Silva's numbers.
"Every time I ever watched him fight, before I even started sparring, I was saying in my head I could win this fight," Weidman said. "No matter how good he looked, no matter what, I always saw something that I might have been better than him at, or something that I could take advantage of since Day 1.
"And that's before I knew what I was capable of. Now that I've got to the point where I'm at, it makes it easier for me to look at tape and have confidence in myself because I've already had it instilled in me for four years since I started MMA."