The marketing slogan for this Saturday’s UFC 168 says it all: “Leave no doubt.”
In the aftermath of July 6, 2013, plenty of people still doubted Chris Weidman’s talent – and that was after he knocked out Anderson Silva, considered the greatest MMA fighter ever.
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It was a fluke, people said. The fight was fixed, people said.
“Those people are just silly,” UFC broadcaster Joe Rogan said. “The bottom line is Chris Weidman knocked Anderson Silva out. That’s it.”
As outrageous of a claim that Silva threw the fight – as opposed to Weidman throwing the left hook that stopped Silva for the first time in his UFC career -- it became part of the narrative of UFC 162.
Fair or not, it has helped build a storyline for UFC 168 this Saturday as Weidman prepares to defend his middleweight title for the first time – against Silva.
“People can’t fathom the fact of me being able to beat Anderson Silva in my 10th fight, so short of a career,” said the 29-year-old champion from Baldwin.
No, they couldn’t. Not when Silva had never lost in the UFC, a streak of 16 fights that lasted more than six years. Not when Silva (33-5) was knocked out for the first time in his 16-year career by a guy who hadn’t fought in a year and was coming off two surgeries.
Weidman said all that talk, for the most part, didn’t bother him. Besides, he used to it by now.
When he looked sluggish after dropping 34 pounds in 11 days to defeat Demain Maia by decision in January 2012, the talk was that Maia was really a welterweight (a weight class Maia dropped to after losing to Weidman). When Weidman busted open Mark Munoz with a perfectly timed elbow in the second round six months later, it was because Munoz was out of shape.
And when Weidman dropped Silva, it was a lucky punch because Silva had dropped his hands and was playing cutesy in the cage (something Silva has done in nearly every one of his recent fights).
“It’s hard to just say the guy is that good,” said Matt Serra, Weidman’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor and a former UFC welterweight champion. “You’re always going to have negative people, whether it’s your fat uncle or this one or that one.”
Weidman can do very little to shape the narrative outside the cage. What he can do, though, is craft something inside the cage for people to discuss and tweet after the cage door opens again and the fighters walk back to the locker room.
“After I beat [Georges] St-Pierre,” Serra said, “if that’s a movie about me, that’s my defining moment. That’s the moment where afterwards, they could show some stuff in the credits where I lost the rematch, and I should have beat [Matt] Hughes but they gave it to him, then I beat [Frank] Trigg -- gotta throw that in there. Basically, that’s my movie. With Chris, his movie is still being written.”
The second act of that Weidman screenplay will get its storyboard Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Whatever words are used in those pages, Weidman has pictured the ending.
“I’m ready to get knocked down, fight back up,” said Weidman. “I’m ready for all the worst things to happen to me and fight through it. I’m not hoping for that. But I’m prepared for it because if it was to happen and I didn’t visualize something like that happening, then you freak out and don’t react the right way. So, I’m prepared to get kicked in the face with a front kick, and go ‘Holy smokes!’ and wake up on the ground, find something to grab on and say ‘Screw you, I’m gonna still win this.”