Chris Weidman tried to be realistic with himself prior to last week's UFC on FUEL 4 showcase against Mark Munoz. Sure, he had bulldozed through the UFC's middleweight division up to that point, but he was young and still a relative unknown to the non-hardcore fans of the sport.
"To be honest with you, before this fight I made sure it wouldn't be a letdown if I didn't get the [title] shot afterwards," he admitted on Monday's episode of The MMA Hour. "I didn't try to think about it too much because I didn't want to start thinking, ‘I definitely deserve it if I win this.'"
Thing is, even Weidman couldn't have foreseen what would come next. The 28-year-old absolutely ripped one of the best middleweights in the world to shreds, destroying Munoz in less than seven minutes, displaying an outright dominance few could've imagined. Suddenly a dance with UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva didn't seem too far-fetched after all.
"I just really wanted to make a statement in this fight and that's really what I cared about, but now I'm really, really wanting a shot at the title," Weidman proclaimed. "I just think I deserve it. I want to be a young champion and I want to hold onto that belt as long as I can. I've only got one shot at this and it's not like it's my first time rushing into things. I took my first fight in the UFC on short notice. I took my first big fight against a top-five guy on ten days notice. So I'm willing to risk it, those risks have rewards."
Thus far the reaction from the community has been decidedly split, with some fans jumping on the Weidman bandwagon and others of the belief that "The All American" is too green for a title shot. It's a reasonably defensible response, if only because Weidman is still on year-four of fighting professionally.
But deep down, the native New Yorker always knew this day was coming.
"I asked for this fight with Mark Munoz for a reason," explained Weidman. "Because he was going to be a tougher test for me, I thought, on paper. He was the highest ranked guy I was able to fight. He was ranked third. Obviously No. 1 and No. 2, Chael [Sonnen] and Anderson [Silva] were busy fighting each other. So I called out the biggest named guy, and probably the toughest fight on paper for me, and I was able to make a statement, so I feel like I'm ready to move up."
Call it the Chael Sonnen effect if you will, but since Weidman's victory, he hasn't exactly been shy about making his feelings known. He publicly called out Silva in his post-fight interview with Jon Anik, then challenged "The Spider" to a fight over Twitter.
It may have worked, too. According to Weidman, discussions to put the fight together have already picked up steam behind the scenes.
"My manager has talked to Joe Silva and all of them," he revealed. "And supposedly they actually really want me to fight Anderson. The question is, will Anderson fight me? I think that's what it's coming down to. When is Anderson going to be ready to fight again? That whole thing. You know, Anderson Silva's making so much money in Brazil right now, he's chilling. He's making so much money outside the ring, I don't know if he's so jumpy to jump in there with a guy who's young, hungry, who's a bad match-up for him on paper like me, and who's name is not (as lucrative as) a Chael Sonnen at this point."
His last point is telling, because if anything, both Silva and the UFC may be reluctant to dismount from the blockbuster aura of Silva-Sonnen to a decidedly lower-key match-up. In terms of marketability, right now Weidman probably falls behind a few fighters in the middleweight division, chief among them being former Bellator champion Hector Lombard.
The UFC paid a heavy price to sign Lombard, and the 34-year-old could potentially jump to the front of the line with a win over Tim Boetsch this weekend.
"I can see that and I wouldn't be upset," acknowledged Weidman. "He's older. They're paying him probably bigger money than me. I understand from like a promotional standpoint, why that would make sense. They just got him out of Bellator. He's on this huge streak. But, I don't know, I just think I'm the best fight for Anderson. I just think I have the best chance of beating him. I don't know if that's in the best interest of the UFC or not, but that's my opinion."
While Weidman remains respectful to his middleweight brethren, the slight shift in his voice makes it clear he'd be disappointed to be overlooked. And after all, it's hard to argue with results. In the wake of such a spectacularly decisive victory, who can really say if Weidman is the man that can finally dethrone Anderson Silva?
"I've won five straight fights in a row in the UFC. I'm undefeated. I'm young," he declared in his final pitch.
"Every single time I've had a full training camp, I've finished the fight. This is the first one that got out of the first round. I've beaten two top-five guys in a row. And I think I'm a stylistic nightmare for Anderson Silva. A lot of these guys, I see them go on record basically saying ‘I'd just love a shot at Anderson Silva to see how I'd do.' I'm not in here to just to able to share the cage with Anderson Silva. That's not my goal at all, I'd be far from content with that. I'm going in there to beat Anderson Silva. And to finish Anderson Silva.