As usual, the industry at large remains in the thrall of Anderson Silva.
We’ve puzzled over Silva’s monosyllabic answers to media inquiries and what they could possibly tell us about his motives, his future and his mindset.
We’ve openly speculated which version of the former champion will show up to Saturday’s hotly anticipated rematch.
Everybody wants to know whether we’ll see a return to the energized, focused version of Silva who terrified the 185-pound division for a dozen years, or if—once again—we’ll get the dancing, taunting fool who messed around and got himself unceremoniously knocked out in July at UFC 162.
Well, everybody except Chris Weidman.
He doesn’t give a damn.
“To be honest, I don’t really care,” says the 29-year-old New Yorker, who, after 10 professional fights and less than half a year as champion, already shrugs off questions like a world-weary veteran. “I don’t care what he does, it doesn’t matter. Hands down, hands up, handstands, butt-scooting, it doesn’t matter.”
If that sounds like the trite, superficial jibber-jabber of a professional athlete preparing for competition, well, it probably is.
On the other hand, it also gives you a penetrating glimpse into the secret of Weidman’s success.
By the time he steps in the cage this weekend, it’ll be nearly six months since he landed the left hook that turned the MMA world on its ear, and while Weidman hasn’t been totally ignored as champion, he hasn’t exactly been celebrated, either.
Media types and hardcore fans have had trouble connecting with him as a personality, and they are still reluctant to view him as the best in the world. The former, because he’s a man of few words; the latter, because the circumstances of his victory over Silva have led some to reject him as a one-hit wonder
Weidman, though? He seems unperturbed.
He couldn’t care less that few people are talking about him. He doesn’t care that on the eve of their second fight he's the underdog again and that Silva has received the lion's share of the attention.
No, it’s not exciting—it’s downright boring, if you listen to the criticism of his short tenure as titlist thus far—but this is the attitude of a man who wins.
For the rest of us, it’s fine to wonder aloud if his first meeting with Silva was sort of a fluke. It’s OK to dismiss his KO of the previously untouchable, unbeatable champion as cagefighting’s answer to a Doug Flutie Hail Mary.
For the man who wins, however, that thought never enters his mind. As far as Weidman and his closest advisors are concerned, they went into UFC 162 with a game plan—fully prepared for the champion’s antics—and emerged with a victory.
Nothing freakish about it.
“Does it bother me?” Weidman says, when asked if it gets under his skin that people so carelessly write off his championship victory. “No, not really. It’s about what I expected.”
You be the judge: Who takes the rematch?
As for the million-dollar question of the week: Whether Silva will prove to have learned his lesson at UFC 168, or whether he’ll once again try to dance his way to victory, Weidman is also playing it steady and cool.
“It’s what he’s been doing for years, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all,” he says. “In fact, I’m going to say he definitely does it. Especially because he might think that I’m thinking that he’s not going to do it.”
During the run-up to the first fight, most of the questions and naysaying about Weidman concerned his inexperience. He was unbeaten in nine outings (five of them in the UFC), and for years his camp had been saying he’d be champion someday, but conventional wisdom said he wouldn’t be ready for Silva.
As it turned out, he didn’t shrink from the bright lights of his first UFC title shot.
He didn’t overthink the fact he was in there with the longtime best in the world.
He didn’t get psyched out when Silva started mocking him, when the champion turned his palms up and barked trash-talk or when he did a fake shimmy, pretending to be hurt by a right hand early in the second round.
Instead of being in awe of the great man, Weidman stepped up and punched him in the face.
That's the attitude of the man who wins. If you’re looking for a snapshot of who he is as a person and as a fighter, that’s your highlight, right there.
Chad Dundas is a lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.