NEW YORK – By Wednesday’s third stop on a seven city tour to promote their UFC 168 rematch on December 28th, UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman and the man he beat for the crown, future Hall of Famer Anderson Silva, seemed to have this whole media thing down to a science, walking into the UFC Gym greeting the assembled press and going off into opposite corners, so to speak, to talk about the upcoming bout.
No drama, no hostile words or stares, just two pros taking care of business.
“I thought it would be weird,” admitted Weidman when asked about seeing the man he just knocked out and the one he will fight again every day for a week. “It was a little weird around the first time we saw each other, but it’s all right; it’s not as bad as I thought.”
The new champion from Long Island has settled into life as champion, but he’s still the same person he was before he defeated Silva at UFC 162 in July. The only entourage around him consists of his wife and kids, and when it comes to dealing with the seemingly never-ending array of interviews, he’s fine with it.
“I got a lot of people around me to keep me grounded, and I’ve got my family and going to the gym every day as my focus, so I put my attention to the interview or whatever it is at the moment and then go right back to work,” he said.
As for Silva, this is a position he has never been in as a UFC fighter. Unbeaten in his first 16 Octagon bouts, a string that saw him win and hold the 185-pound crown for nearly seven years, he now has to face questions about the worst night of his professional life over and over. But you would guess that the toughest queries came from his five children, who had never seen their father knocked out before.
“My kids have been around this for a long time and watching me fight for a long time, so they’re used to this and they know how to deal with it,” said Silva through manager / translator Ed Soares. “My kids are my biggest critics, but they support me and they’re happy.”
And the Brazilian icon seems to be in good spirits as well, quick with a smile and a joke as he faced off with the media Wednesday. This is the time for that, three months removed from the fight, and before the real tough work begins in the gym. But in a more serious moment, the 38-year-old looked back on his first loss since 2006 and simply said “Every once in a while you have to take a step back to take a few steps forward.”
But will those steps forward see him regain his crown? According to Weidman, despite nearly submitting Silva in the first round and then finishing him in the second, he didn’t feel like he was as good as he could have been.
“I honestly didn’t really feel that good in that fight,” he said. “I had a year layoff with two surgeries, Hurricane Sandy, and a lot of things that slowed my training down going into it. My whole training camp was based on getting a lot of ring rust off, and I was trying to spar as much as possible, but when I got in there I felt a little rusty. I was able to get the finish, but there were a lot of things that felt better in the gym than that actual night.”
That could be a scary proposition for Silva, especially when the future Hall of Famer doesn’t rule out a return visit of the showboating that many feel cost him his belt in the first place.
“My coaches always comment to me and they always have their opinions about how I keep my guard down once in a while, but that’s just how I fight and that’s what I’ve always done,” said Silva. “Where I made my error was when I had my feet parallel to each other, and that just happens.”
Will it happen again? If you listen to both middleweights, you get the impression that while they’re both expecting victory, Part II will look a lot different than Part I. More epic? You get that feeling.
“I’m gonna prepare myself for an absolute war, prepare myself to go through tough times in the fight, and persevere and show toughness, but hope for a finish,” said Weidman. “Every time I feel like there’s an opportunity for a finish, I’m going for it.”
“The belt is very important,” added Silva. “It’s a symbol of your accomplishments, and every fighter that comes into the UFC, that’s their dream. But for me, what’s important is going out there and doing what I love to do, putting on a good performance. You can expect a tough fight, a lot better than the first time.”
Weidman and Silva Continue Tour in NYC
"I’m gonna prepare myself for an absolute war, prepare myself to go through tough times in the fight, and persevere and show toughness, but hope for a finish." - Chris Weidman