Chris Weidman was a nearly anonymous U.S. athlete before ending the near seven-year reign of
Now, UFC President Dana White says Weidman's rematch with Silva on Dec. 28 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas has the legitimate potential to become the organization's most lucrative pay-per-view in history.
"It's almost surreal. I was almost like a nobody going to this last fight and now I can be part of the most pay-per-view buys ever," said Weidman, 29, who appeared with Silva (33-5) at UFC Gym in Torrance on Monday to start an international tour to promote the bout.
UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will defend her belt in a rematch with Miesha Tate on the Dec. 28 card. The two star in this season's UFC reality television series "The Ultimate Fighter."
Weidman (10-0) knocked out Silva, 38, in the second round after the charismatic champion from Brazil engaged in Ali-like showmanship in the octagon by dancing, hitting himself in the face and other theatrics to try to provoke Weidman, whose abilities as a standup striker were in question before the outcome.
With Silva's head stuck out, Weidman caught him with a hard punch and finished him on the canvas for a stunning upset.
White knew the rematch would be huge, so he delivered Weidman a substantial postfight bonus said to be in seven figures, and the new champion took a week to visit his wife’s family in Hawaii and bought a home in
Silva has been forced to defend accusations he meant to lose in order to create this bigger fight. He cried on Brazilian television while dismissing those claims.
"He's done stuff like that in everyone of his fights," Weidman said of the showmanship. "I don't think he was messing around, it's just part of his style. I caught him, that was it. That's the way he fights. He got knocked out. That's why we're having a rematch."
The champion must always stay on guard against getting content. Weidman says he's far from fat and happy.
"If I beat him and everyone thought I was a legit champion and there was no question, maybe that's a concern," Weidman said. "But I knew after beating Anderson Silva, there was going to be a lot of questions: Can I do it again? Was he trying? Whatever it is. I've had a lot of questions to answer. That's what keeps me motivated. I still feel like I have to prove myself.
"People saying he was just playing, it's not that it bothers me, but it gives me motivation. It's expected. He's one of the greatest of all time, and people think he still is this phenom. People can't fathom the fact that he got knocked out and he was actually fighting."
Weidman said he's looking forward to a longer and more complete camp than his last one, when he was slow to return from an injury.
"I'll work hard every day on each and every thing," he said. "I got used to the publicity last time. There's more now. You've just to be focused on the fight. That's the main thing, to win. Everyone likes a winner. The goal is to keep winning."
And to stay humble and focused.
"I've got a good group that's been with me since the beginning," Weidman said. "If they ever see me turning into someone I'm not, they'd put me in my place."