Chris Weidman to fight Anderson Silva for UFC middleweight title in July

Chris Weidman celebrates after beating Mark Munoz in Chris Weidman celebrates after beating Mark Munoz in a UFC on Fuel 4 Mixed Martial Arts middleweight bout in San Jose, Calif. (July 11, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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ALBANY -- Chris Weidman will finally get the title shot against UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva on July 4th weekend at UFC 161 in Las Vegas, Newsday has learned.

UFC chief executive Lorenzo Fertitta on Wednesday told Weidman, a Baldwin native, in the Capitol building that he spoke to Silva and that he agreed to the fight.

"Dream come true," Weidman said. "Ever since I've been fighting, Anderson Silva has been the champion and I've been visualizing beating him. Now I have the opportunity. I have to make the most of it."

Bout agreements have yet to be signed, but getting Silva (33-4, 16-0 UFC) to agree to the fight was the biggest hurdle. He and his camp have been saying that they want big fights against big names for big money. Silva, 38, has gone out of his way to avoid saying publicly that he would fight Weidman.

On last week's episode of "UFC Tonight," Silva called Weidman "a boy, a kid," then added "It's good for Chris Weidman, not for me."

Weidman (9-0, 5-0 UFC) earned his way into the title conversation with a decision win over Demian Maia in January 2012, a fight he took on 11 days' notice and dropped 34 pounds for, and a spectacular knockout of Munoz. Both were consensus top-five middleweights at the time of their fights.

Weidman, 28, was scheduled to fight Tim Boetsch at UFC 154 last December but had to pull out in November because of a shoulder injury suffered while training. Surgery on the torn right labrum knocked Weidman out of the cage for six months. Weidman said Wednesday that his doctor told him a day earlier that he is 100 percent healed and cleared to resume training.

And now his first fight back from injury will come against a man who happens to be not just the current pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, but quite possibly the greatest mixed martial artist in the sport's history.

"I'm really psyched for it as a trainer," said Ray Longo, Weidman's striking coach and lead trainer. "The only negative is the layoff and coming off the injury, but if anyone can do it, he can."

Silva has never lost a fight in the UFC. Of those 16 straight wins, including 10 title defenses, only two of the bouts went the distance. One was because Thales Leites refused to engage the best striker in the sport, and the other was because Silva chose to toy with and mock Maia.

Silva last fought Stephan Bonnar in a non-title fight at light heavyweight in Brazil last October. Jose Aldo was scheduled to fight Erik Koch at that card but he pulled out with an injury, so Silva volunteered to save the card in his home country. This came shortly after UFC 151, scheduled for Labor Day Weekend, was canceled because of an injury to Dan Henderson and the subsequent decision from Jon Jones to not accept a fight with replacement Chael Sonnen.

In the time since Silva's last fight, and really, since he beat Sonnen last July, Silva's camp has mentioned many names of possible opponents. There was Georges St-Pierre, the UFC welterweight champion. There was Jon Jones, the light heavyweight champion. There was Cung Le, who has appeared in one more martial arts movie (12) than he has mixed martial arts fights (11). There was Michael Bisping, who lost his opportunity in January when Vitor Belfort knocked him out. There was Rashad Evans, the former light heavyweight champion who would have to drop 20 pounds to fight Silva.

Weidman, who earned All-American honors in wrestling at both Nassau CC and Hofstra, has been openly campaigning for this title shot ever since the win over Munoz.

Weidman was in Albany on Thursday along with Fertitta and women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey to help lobby for the legalization of MMA in New York State. The bill is expected to come to a vote in the Senate this afternoon. It has passed through the Senate each of the past three years. The bill needs to pass through the Assembly as well before going to the govenor's office for his signature.

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