Several days after UFC 184 lost its main event, it's still unclear whether Vitor Belfort will remain on the Feb. 28 pay-per-view and vie for an interim UFC middleweight title rather than fight reigning champion Chris Weidman, as initially intended.
Weidman withdrew from the bout over the weekend after suffering fractured cartilage in his ribs -- an injury which has effectively rendered Weidman immobile, but one that also carries with it a quick turnaround window ranging anywhere from six to eight weeks. And it's because of this short window, as well as the fact that Weidman successfully defended his title against Lyoto Machida this past July in an instant classic, that Weidman admitted on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour how he was irked by the UFC's decision to turn toward an interim belt.
"You know, I thought it was kind of stupid," Weidman said. "I'm just like, hang on, Anthony Pettis was out for a year. Johny Hendricks was out for like nine months. Cain Velasquez, they just did an interim title, he was out for how long? A year and a half? So I've been out for six months, I just get an injury now that's going to [hold] me out six-to-eight weeks, then I'm ready to go. So for them to do an interim belt is kind of crazy. It doesn't match up to [how much time] other guys (have missed) when they've done interim belts. I don't have an ACL tear. I'm not going to be out for a year, indefinitely, no matter what. Hopefully this thing heals even faster than six-to-eight weeks.
"It's really just a way to promote the fight," Weidman continued. "It's a way to get people excited. It's a belt, and then you can do champion versus champion. So I understand the business side of doing it. It just sucks that it's me and they're doing it with me. But I understand they want to save this UFC 184 (card)."
Weidman's dropout marked the third time a bout against Vitor Belfort failed to make it to fight night intact. Weidman and Belfort were originally slated to meet at UFC 173, however Belfort's drug testing failure led to the Brazilian's removal and subsequent replacement with Machida. Weidman went on to defeat Machida to have the Belfort bout rescheduled for UFC 181, but that too was postponed after Weidman suffered a broken hand in training.
Altogether it's been a frustrating road for Weidman, and while he acknowledged the business sense of the UFC potentially introducing an interim title belt at UFC 184, he worries about what that reality could mean for his inactivity moving forward.
"The only thing I'm thinking about long term is that, let's say if they did make Vitor-Mousasi for the interim belt," Weidman said. "I'm going to ready in, let's say six weeks from now. I heal up, I'm ready to fight in six weeks. I'll be ready to fight by the end of April, May.
"If they fight at UFC 184 four weeks from now, when is Vitor or whoever wins going to be ready to fight again? They're going to need another four or five months. So then I'm going to be on the shelf forever. Then let's say one of them gets injured or I get injured -- I'm not even going to say I get injured, I'm done with being injured -- but let's say one of them get injured, then..."
Here Weidman trailed off, if only for a moment, before picking back up with his thoughts.
"Listen man, I want to be a champion who fights as many people as I can. I want to dominate this division. I want a couple superfights. And then I'm out. I'm not losing to anybody. I've said this before, and everything I've said has come to fruition. I said I was going to beat Anderson Silva and people laughed at me. I said I was going to beat him again. I said I was going to finish him both times. Unfortunately the leg break is not the way I would've wanted it to go. I'm on a mission. There's some curveballs that got thrown into my dream, but I'm on a mission and it's not finished yet."