Chris Weidman deserved better in the immediate aftermath of his upset of Anderson Silva. Most of the focus was on the former middleweight champion and his antics. The new champ was overshadowed despite earning the biggest win of his career.
Over time, more appreciation should develop for Weidman's victory as the initial shock of Silva's first UFC loss fades away. But the 29-year-old American has a lot of work to do in order to capitalize on the marquee triumph.
Nobody knows what would have happened if Silva would have focused more on fighting and less on showboating, but Weidman didn't engage in the mental battle. He remained keyed in on taking the longtime champion down, and did exactly that.
Even after the fight, the New York native was forced to talk about how his opponent acted instead of his road to the belt. Brett Okamoto of ESPN passed along comments in which the undefeated rising star talked about the borderline bizarre fight.
"Anderson Silva has won a lot of his fights because of what he did [tonight]," Weidman said. "He knows exactly what he’s doing. I capitalized on it. A lot of other guys couldn’t. I’m not trying to take that away from myself."
Once the storm passes, the real work will begin for Weidman. The second-round knockout is just the beginning. The unheralded challenger turned champion must now work even harder to establish himself as one of the sport's biggest stars.
Since UFC isn't as popular as mainstream sports like the NFL or NBA, it's tougher for individuals to stand out on a large scale. Silva was able to do it because of his extended title reign, but Weidman still has a lot of work to do to come anywhere close to that level.
First and foremost, it starts with backing up the victory.
Since there are so many questions about Silva's showing, Weidman will be forced to prove he's a worthy champion. Whether it comes in a rematch—which Okamoto says doesn't interest Silva—or against a new opponent, he must back up the win.
The other aspect is promotion. Weidman's biggest victories before Saturday night came against the likes of Demian Maia and Mark Munoz. So he entered the bout as a fighter with potential, but still a relative unknown compared to the mainstream champion.
That changed once the fight was stopped.
Now his image is being plastered everywhere as outlets pick up on the loss of Silva and people start learning about the new champ. He must build on that newfound stardom to eventually become one of those select superstars.
In the end, the debate will probably rage on about whether Weidman won the fight or Silva lost it with his antics. It doesn't matter. A new champion was crowned. Now he must take that momentum and use it to keep moving forward, proving he belongs as one of UFC's top-tier fighters.
Beating Silva was a terrific start to the process, but there's plenty of work left to do.
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