Chris Weidman woke up in his suite at the MGM Grand at 5 am on Sunday. Flush with excitement about what he'd done just a few hours before, he woke up his children sleeping nearby to tell them what he'd promised them for months: that daddy was the champion. The impromptu celebration was quickly halted by his wife so the kids could return to bed, and with that, the first sign came that life was returning to normal.
For Weidman, that means back to work. Every professional athlete wants to win the championship. It is often a lifelong goal, but no one tells you that when you do, the pressure to hold onto it is exponentially greater than that of the chase. It's one thing to scale a mountain; it's another to live at the peak.
Weidman is already feeling this. On a Monday interview on The MMA Hour, he said his mind has already shifted into the future, and "stressing" about his next fight. In a way, it's something he brought on himself. From the get-go, he said he would beat Anderson Silva at UFC 162 and then offer him an immediate rematch, so intent he was on proving he was the better man.
The pairing might indeed be necessary to destroy the doubts of many who have diminished Weidman's win because of Silva's performance, which featured copious amounts of bobbing, weaving and taunting. In the short time since the bout, there have been various suggestions that Silva did not try, did not care, or even that he laid down for the challenger. To suggest a man with a perfect 16-fight octagon win streak and a history of this in-cage behavior was either purposely lethargic or willfully criminal seems outrageous, but nevertheless, the buzz has persisted.
"I’m not here to change other people’s opinion but I’ll tell you one thing: he did not give me the belt, he did not throw the fight," Weidman said. "It was nothing like that. He was doing exactly what he does in all his fights. He had his hands down, he was trying to mentally defeat me, make me freeze, make me feel like I didn’t deserve to be in the ring with him. I didn't want to let him do that. I wanted to put him in his place, and that's it."
Ironically, Weidman indirectly acknowledged that Silva's tactics did affect him, saying he did feel disrespected as the fight went on and the former champion persisted, and even though he knew there was a very specific reason Silva was doing it.
A close observation of the moments after the fight also confirmed it, with Weidman saying Silva was a "disrespectful piece of s---" seconds after he scored the knockout. The new champion confirmed he was fired up in the heat of the moment, at one point mockingly asking Silva if he wanted help up from the mat, but said he calmed down soon after and that he still holds a huge amount of respect for the Brazilian legend.
"That was the first time I ever got emotional in a fight," he said. "I wanted this fight so bad. I knew I had the tools to do it, it was just a matter of going out and doing it. Not letting him fight his fight, just fighting my fight which is don't care what he's doing. Just keep moving, I'm going to punch him in face, and look for takedowns. I did everything I said I was going to do."
Weidman said he felt he was winning the whole way, from his early takedown and ground work -- he said he saw Silva's "eyes roll back" on one ground strike -- to his standup.
Later, when they returned to their feet and Silva started goading and talking to him, the Brazilian told him, "Don't wrestle, they want to see a standup fight."
"I felt in control," Weidman said. "He was doing all that stuff, but in my mind, I'm just laughing. I’m like, 'Bro, I’m winning the fight. I’m punching you right now and you're standing there with your hands on your hips. You can do that all day if you want.' It got to the point where I figured, I’m going to get in this guy's face, and put my hands on him, and that's what I did."
It happened in the second, as Weidman continued to move forward with combinations. It was the fourth punch of a series -- a left hook -- that sent Silva crashing back and towards the end of his lengthy reign.
Even to Weidman, that split-second was surreal.
"When I was punching him once he fell to the ground, I was like, 'Holy crap, this is happening. Oh my God,'" he said.
While Silva has said he isn't interested in a rematch, Weidman believes that was just an emotional reaction to an unexpected moment, and that the fight will happen. In fact, he wants it, and the Feb. 2014 timeline is right in line with his thinking, since he said he has a few health issues he'd like to address first.
Weidman said that even in victory, he does not feel like he put on his best performance, citing a "sluggish" feeling possibly due to his one year off, as well as some mistakes in his submission game that he felt could have ended the fight even earlier. But he also has no regrets. He went for victory at every turn and never let the great Silva break him.
And if they do build a sequel, the new champion says his thoughts about Silva next time around will not change a bit.
"I think he’s still unbelievable, I think he's still the greatest of all time, and I think I’d still beat him again," he said.