Chris Weidman: ‘I want to fight Vitor Belfort’ next

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

How much has life changed for UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman since he won the title? He was getting set to head to the airport to catch his flight to Los Angeles when he appeared on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour.

Weidman, who defeated Lyoto Machida last week at UFC 175, has been nominated for an ESPY award for the "Best Upset" of 2013 for his UFC 162 knockout of former champion Anderson Silva. He joins fellow UFC champions Ronda Rousey ("Best Female Athlete" and "Best Fighter") and Jon Jones ("Best Fighter") as nominees at the awards show.

The ceremony will happen on July 16 at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, and will air on ESPN. The next day, July 17, is officially Chris Weidman Day in Nassau County. That, too, is to commemorate the champion’s feat of dethroning Silva.

As for everything that comes after, Weidman is still in the process of figuring out whom he’ll fight next, and when. Although, if he had his druthers, he’d defend the 185-pound title next against the guy who is rightfully next in line, Vitor Belfort.

"I wish I could tell you, I’m in the same boat as you," the Long Island native told Ariel Helwani. "I haven’t spoken to Dana [White] or anyone at the UFC since my fight [on July 5].

"I do want to fight Vitor Belfort. He’s the guy who’s been floating around the top for awhile now. He’s another legend. I’ve kind of grew to enjoy fighting legends that I got into the sport watching and admiring. Obviously he has his drug test issue going on. I hope somehow he can figure it out and we can get him licensed and, I really don’t know how that’s working. But that’s the guy I do want to fight."

Belfort has been the No. 1 contender since he knocked out Dan Henderson in November of last year, but it’s complicated. Belfort was supposed to fight Weidman at UFC 173, which was shifted and ultimately changed due to Weidman needing surgery on his knees and the abrupt February ban on testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in Nevada. Belfort, who fought three times in Brazil in 2013, was on TRT at the time of the ban.

Belfort, who was busted for steroids back in 2006 when he faced Henderson in Pride, was randomly tested out of competition while visiting Las Vegas in February. He still needs to go before the Nevada Athletic Commission to try and get licensed in the state, which has presented a lot of murkiness to the matchmaking process.

With this being the case, Weidman ran down the list of other eligible contenders that might become his next challenge.

"Then you have [Gegard] Mousasi who’s fighting Jacare [Ronaldo Souza], so I don’t know if the winner of that…and then you have [Luke] Rockhold, who lost to Vitor, but he came back with two big W’s over [Tim] Boetsch and Costas [Philippou]," he said. "I think he may need another win, another top five win to get it, but that’s up to the UFC…but there’s no one out there for him to fight, so I don’t know. I don’t really know what’s going to happen. It’s a weird division we’re in."

Weidman said he would strongly recommend that Belfort be thoroughly tested for PEDs before fighting him, but said he "wouldn’t demand" it with the UFC. When pressed as to why not, he said that he was 100 percent positive that he would be anyway.

As for down the line, Weidman said his goal would be to clean out the middleweight division and then take some super-fights outside of it. When the name Jon Jones was brought up, Weidman said that would be a fight that he’d be very interested in if and when it came up, given that they are both still in the same position they’re in now.

"It depends, right now he would be [at the top of the list of things to accomplish], because I’m at the top, and he’s at the top. That’s the guy I’d want to fight," he said. "But, who knows where he’ll be at that point. I think he’s going to be on top for awhile, and I think I will too. So, if I had to say right now, I’d say that’s the fight that I would want. I want to fight the best guys in the world…I want to fight people that other people think I have no chance of beating. So, he would definitely be an awesome test for me."

As for welterweight champion, Johny Hendricks, who recently expressed interest in fighting Weidman?

"I don’t even think that I’d entertain that," he said. "Not that he’s not good or anything like that, but it just doesn’t make any sense to talk about it now. [Hendricks] hasn’t defended his belt yet, and I have more people to fight in my weight class. On top of that, I would never call out a guy who’s smaller than me. I’m a lot bigger than him, I think. I know he walks around heavy but I’d feel like I’d have a huge advantage in that fight, so I’m not calling him out.

"Jon Jones is different," he continued. "He’s taller than me, he’s bigger than me, so that’s a different story. That would be more of a test than Johny Hendricks."

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