The race to grab the next shot at Anderson Silva's middleweight title has been a heated one. From promised title shots and failed opportunities to "The Spider's" camp commenting on the most unlikely of match-ups—the story continues to take some curious turns.
One fighter who believes he has been downright overlooked in the process is undefeated rising star Chris Weidman.
The Long Island-native has been tearing his way through the ranks of the 185-pound weight class since entering the UFC fold less than two years ago. During that time, the 28-year-old has collected five-consecutive victories with his most recent coming in brutal fashion as he knocked out fellow contender Mark Munoz with a standing elbow strike at UFC on Fuel TV 4 in July.
Weidman appeared to be on the doorstep of a title shot against the UFC's most dominant champion, until a shoulder injury forced him to the sidelines during his bout with Tim Boetsch at UFC 155. Nevertheless, in Weidman's absence a true No. 1 contender has failed to emerge and the position opposite the middleweight king is absent for the time being.
As the Ray Longo-product sets about his road back to the Octagon, his focus is not only set on dethroning Silva, but Weidman also has a specific date in mind.
"I want to make my return against Anderson Silva on 4th of July weekend," Weidman told Bleacher Report. "The UFC always holds an event that weekend and what better fight to headline the card?"
While calling out Silva is nothing new to the fighters in the upper tier of the middleweight division, Weidman is confident in his approach. There is no hesitation in the way he talks about fighting the pound-for-pound great and believes he has the necessary skill set to do what no one in the past seven years has been able to accomplish.
"I think I match up very well with him," Weidman said. "I think I match up with Silva better than other guys I've faced like Mark Munoz. I think I'd be too much for him once I got my hands on him. I feel like I am the best fighter in the world at my weight and all I want is the chance to prove it.
"I feel good where I am right now but I also know there is a lot of improvement ahead and I want to continue to develop in every part of my game. There is so much to work on. This sport is evolving, guys are getting better, and there are more athletes coming into MMA. You can't just sit back and think you are good enough. It's a personal challenge I put on myself to continue to get better."
Over the past two years, the trend of fighters talking their way into big fights has become a hot topic throughout the sport. The process has created several scenarios where fighters who have battled their way to the top of the ranks are pushed aside for the more marketable name for a high profile bout. While Weidman doesn't agree with how things have gone down in certain situations, he also understands the need to vocalize what you want in the increasingly competitive fight game.
"I wish it was an 'old school' system where No. 1 fights No. 2 and the process guaranteed a title shot," Weidman said. "But it's not that way anymore. This is an entertainment business and you have to be a little vocal. I couldn't pull a Chael Sonnen even if I wanted to. But you have to be vocal about what you want and I don't mind talking a little trash here and there. You have to have a voice. You can't just fight and depend on that to make yourself relevant."
As Weidman continues to campaign for the biggest fight of his career, his ambition is to make 2013 one for the history books. It is not only his intention to be the first man to defeat Silva under the UFC banner, but to then do it again in front of a crowd in his home state of New York. The battle to make MMA legal in "The Empire State" has been a well-documented process and Weidman is hoping to make it a reality before the year closes out.
"The ideal year for me would be a fight on the 4th of July against the best fighter of all-time Anderson Silva with a first or second round finish," Weidman said. "Then the immediate rematch in November in Madison Square Garden. It would be a monumental event with the first UFC card held in New York and I main event against Anderson Silva. That would be a great year and I would carry that momentum into 2014."
"MMA is illegal in my state and that is just the dumbest thing ever. It pisses me off to be honest. All of my fights before the UFC were in New Jersey and that basically became my home for fighting. I don't like that. New York is my home and where I should be fighting. It doesn't make sense to me that MMA isn't there yet."
Until his next bout is made official, Weidman will continue to hone his craft and ready himself for the next challenge that comes his way. Being on the sidelines hasn't been easy, but Weidman's belief that the best is yet to come continues to motivate him on the road back to the Octagon.
"I think everything happens for a reason," Weidman said. "After all this I'm still the number one contender. All I want to is to get back in there and fight and it has been tough being on the sidelines. I want to be in there as much as possible and that is why I've taken so many short notice fights in the past. I want to keep fighting and fighting and when I got put on the shelf it sucked. But I believe everything happens for a reason and I'm not crying over it. It will be a good thing.
"I've been having fun with my career and the best is yet to come," he added. "I know we are only going to live once and if I don't enjoy this moment the opportunities are going to fly by. I'm having fun with the entire process and trying to enjoy it all and soak it up because I know I'll be 45 someday and looking back and I don't want to have any regrets. I don't want there to be anything I didn't take advantage of."