UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva: 'I changed the life of Chris Weidman'

Esther Lin

LAS VEGAS -- Chris Weidman has made no bones about the fact he's envisioned a fight with Anderson Silva since the day he first stepped into a mixed martial arts gym.

Now that the bout is on the horizon, Silva basically said "you're welcome."

Appraised of the Weidman's thoughts heading into their Saturday night UFC 162 title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the UFC middleweight champion was succinct: "I changed the life of Chris Weidman," Silva told reporters at Wednesday's open workouts at the XS nightclub. "Because he fights for the belt. This is good."

Silva was already champion nearly two-and-a-half years when Weidman made his professional MMA debut in 2009. Since then, the thought of meeting and defeating Silva has consumed his professional life.

In his own way, Weidman is thankful for Silva's presence, as it provided him with the motivation to reach the top in MMA in a way he never quite could as a college wrestler at Hofstra.

"As soon as I started my first sparring session ever and first learned how to strike, I envisioned beating Anderson Silva," Weidman said. "When I was a wrestler, I was a talented guy, the coach knew I had a lot of potential but I wasn't the type of guy who was trying to kill myself and be the hardest worker. I think stopped me from doing some great things in wrestling.

"When I got into MMA, I was at the point that, I needed to work for this. God gave me certain talents and I didn't want to have any regrets. The biggest thing for me is I wanted to be the hardest-working fighter."

While Weidman kicked off the open workouts with a quick, no-frills sparring session, Silva's workout was a spectacle in and of itself. Rolling with a crew of about two dozen -- which included worldwide soccer superstar Ronaldo -- Team Silva ran through a complex array of drills which ran well over his allotted half-hour.

If the 9-0 Weidman was at all in awe of his surroundings, being in the Las Vegas main event, title-fight spotlight for the first time, he was putting on a pretty strong poker face. He also channeled his inner Ric Flair.

"When I got into this sport, I wanted to be number one," Weidman said. "I wanted to have this pressure. To be the man, you gotta beat the man. This is where I wanted to be, if I wasn't here right now, if I wasn't dealing with these type of pressures, I wouldn't be happy."

For Silva (33-4), though, fight week is old hat after nearly seven years as champion. "This is my legacy, this is what's important to me," Silva said. "For new champions in the UFC, for new guys working together, Weidman has a chance at something. This is the UFC. This is the best sport in the world."

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