Chris Weidman knows he is going to be part of something special. He just hopes things stay that way.
Weidman defends his UFC middleweight title on Dec. 12 against former Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold at UFC 194. With a slew of big names strewn throughout the card, including Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor's hugely hyped featherweight showdown, Weidman expects the event to be a lucrative endeavor for all involved -- as long the injury bug is kept far, far away.
"I just want the card to stay together," Weidman said Monday during an in-studio appearance on The MMA Hour. "If it stays together, I'm going to say (it does) 1.4 (million pay-per-view buys)."
Only one other event in the history of the UFC has sold more than 1.4 million pay-per-views: UFC 100, which sold 1.6 million on the strength of Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir II, a Georges St-Pierre title defense, plus a fight between TUF coaches Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping.
But with a killer supporting cast to go alongside the Aldo-McGregor rivalry, Weidman hopes UFC 194 can make its own mark on history.
"First of all, the Jose Aldo vs. Conor fight has been getting promoted for almost a year now, right?" Weidman said. "They've put more money into that than any other show, and it didn't happen yet. So I hope that's going to carry over and that momentum still going to be swinging.
"Then you've got me and Luke obviously as the co-main event. Anybody who's involved with this sport at all knows that this is a fight to watch. This is going to be an awesome fight."
Weidman said he is doing his part to curb the chances of a card-derailing injury by shortening his fight camp to six weeks, rather than eight. He has experimented with similarly shorter camps before and he found the results to be beneficial.
"For my last couple fights, I've been doing six weeks," Weidman said. "I do less just [to make sure I have] no injuries. Because when I go into camp, it's very serious and I'm working really hard and that's all I'm doing. There's a lot of sacrifices that have to be made on my family's side, so six weeks is when it's all about me and my camp, and six weeks has been enough.
"I used to do eight weeks and by two weeks out I'm already done. I'm like, ‘alright, I just want to fight already.' So for these last two fights, I kind of narrowed it down to six and it's really, I felt way better. I'm ready to peak at the right time."
Weidman is aware of the criticism he received after injuries twice delayed his recent title defense against Vitor Belfort, first due to a broken hand, then due to a torn cartilage in his ribs. Weidman said the experience was one he learned from, and while he doesn't pay much attention to his critics, he has since become more mindful of protecting his body to ensure he makes it to Dec. 12 intact.
"It's in my mind 100-percent, but not because of what people are thinking. It's because I want to get to the fight and provide for my family, and go out there and dominate these guys," Weidman said. "To pull out of a fight is really a tough thing, so I hit the gas 100-percent, but you have to be smart about it. You don't just jump in there with random people who want to train with you.
"As a champion, even as a UFC [fighter], everybody can relate: everywhere you go and anybody that's around you, they all want to train with you. They all want to kinda get a piece of you and go home with something to brag about. So you have to train with the right people that you don't feel like are going to create a situation where you're going to get hurt because they have an ego. So it's very important to find good people, and I have great people and great training partners."
Even without the hype of Aldo-McGregor, Weidman's fight against Rockhold is expected to be the most anticipated fight of the middleweight champion's post-Anderson Silva career.
Rockhold has dominated the 185-pound division over the past two years, racking up four straight finishes over ranked opposition, highlighted by a ferocious second-round finish over Lyoto Machida.
The stylistic pairing between the two middleweights makes for a fascinating contest, and even Weidman acknowledged that Rockhold feels far different than any challenger who has come before him.
"There's definitely something different," Weidman said. "Luke, I think, is a really good fighter. He really brings a lot to the table. I have a lot of respect for him. I think his game is legit, so I'm taking him very, very serious. And I think he's a good guy.
"I like him. I like him as a person. He pisses me off with some of the things he says, but it doesn't piss me off enough to where I'm going to remember it. Nothing bothers me too much."
Weidman will have his hands full at UFC 194, but if he can successfully defend his middleweight title for the fourth consecutive time, his options extending into 2016 should be interesting.
In an effort to circumvent New York's ban on mixed martial arts, the UFC booked an event at Madison Square Garden for April 23, 2016, pending the results of a federal injunction. If that federal injunction proves to be a success, a New York native like Weidman would be an obvious choice to headline or co-headline the card.
At that point, Weidman would assumedly fight either Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza or Yoel Romero, depending on who wins at UFC 194. Although another option could also present itself, one that would make the UFC's long-awaited trip to New York a purely in-state affair.
"Does Jon Jones want that tough of a fight for his first fight back?" Weidman asked, smiling. "That's the question."