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Is Chris Weidman given the credit he is due? It’s complicated…

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The country of Brazil can’t like what Chris Weidman is doing to its icons. Somebody needs to stop this man who is putting Tom Petty back into popular rotation. In all of his "big" appearances (meaning title fights), Weidman has punished Anderson Silva for his sacred clowning, broke Anderson Silva’s leg gruesomely, put the mangles on Lyoto Machida for 25 minutes, and now -- just to cap it all off, as if all of that weren’t enough -- allowed Vitor Belfort one small delusional moment of divine hope before pounding him into a state of reassessment.

The biggest reason to give Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza the next crack at Weidman’s belt is so that he can attempt to avenge his countrymen. At this point, Weidman is to Rio what Tecumseh Sherman became as he danced all over the ashes of Atlanta.

And yet, after Weidman defended his title for a third time in fairly dramatic fashion at UFC 187, the queries into his headspace had to do with his motivation in being discounted as a champion. Or disrespected. Jay Glazer and Dominick Cruz disputed over the wording in the post-fight show on FOX Sports 1, while Weidman bled silently out of his eye right next to them. Glazer said Weidman’s shtick is to not have a shtick, and such a high-minded concept began to shut down the panel’s orientation. In any case, the point is that even the experts are wondering why Weidman isn’t given the respect he deserves.

Now, there are a lot of reasons for this. Part of it has to do with the bookings. Weidman has headlined exactly two pay-per-views, and really the first one -- UFC 162 -- was all about Anderson Silva. Weidman, the kid from Hofstra who had less than 10 fights at the time, was supposed to be Victim No. 17. He wasn’t. He vandalized the church. When they rematched at UFC 168, it was all about how Anderson Silva would collect himself after being defeated. (In pieces, it turned out).

Like it or not, this declarative series didn’t sit well with MMA purists who had grown to believe in the Silva myth. Suddenly there was a freaking singlet at the top at 185 pounds instead of a striking wizard.

Since those fights Weidman has appeared twice, and both times on a shared bill with another champion. The first time, at UFC 175 for his fight with Machida, was with Ronda Rousey, who defended her belt against Alexis Davis. Then last night, where he played the co-main role behind Anthony Johnson and Daniel Cormier. The spotlight hasn’t been firmly on him since he did away with Silva.

The other thing is that, due to injury and other circumstance, Weidman is a rarity to see at all. After winning the belt, he fought once in 2014. Ten months later, he beat Belfort. The first thing he said afterwards was that he wanted to fight at Madison Square Garden when the UFC is finally legally able to visit New York. For as poetic as that seems, that card -- if it happens -- is seven months away. Football season will be winding down the next time Weidman fights if that’s the case. It’s hard to be excited about things sitting on a shelf.

And with two top contenders in Luke Rockhold and Jacare vying for the shot at Weidman, December almost feels like a cussword.

But all of that is secondary to the other thing that Weidman is (or isn’t). He’s a fairly regular guy who just happens to be in an extraordinary circumstance -- a circumstance that he put him in because he’s obviously extraordinary. Google Chris Weidman and Hurricane Sandy to get an idea. He loves his wife, for god sakes, and he even thanked Jesus after doing away with one of Jesus’ most loyal customers, Vitor Belfort (did I mention he has a degree in psychology?). He’s not brimming with charisma so much as he’s beaming with ordinary dudeness. When he talks trash, he’s so casually truthful about it that it just makes him come off as realist. There’s very little that’s outlandish about Chris Weidman. He’s unnervingly down to earth.

That’s how it is for now.

At some point, though, Weidman’s will be given the credit he is due, no matter how reluctant people are. What he has accomplished so far feels like the tip of the iceberg. Lost in the everyman parts of his attitude is the fact that he wants to be the best in the world. Before he took Silva’s belt he was already giving his consent a rematch. He was already talking about taking Jon Jones’ belt down the line. He was already talking about himself high above MMA stratosphere as the greatest fighter not only in his division, but of all time. After he beat Silva twice he still said Silva was the best of all time. Make no mistake that he knows who he’s really complimenting in that sentiment. He’s so subtle about his ascent into greatness that you can’t help but downplay along with him.

That is, unless you’re in Brazil, where Chris Weidman has become another word for tyranny.

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