I had the opportunity to eat lunch with Weidman on the Las Vegas Strip this week. We sat directly down the street from the MGM Grand, where he and Silva will fight for the middleweight title in less than two months at UFC 162.
The biggest thing I took away from the interview is that Weidman is sincerely convinced that, basically, he’s got this. He discussed the possibility of defeating the greatest fighter of all time as though he were describing doing his laundry.
Not that he did it disrespectfully. He acknowledged the enormousness of the opportunity. He admitted that Silva is “great at everything.”
But listening to Weidman talk, you get the sense he’s never watched a Silva fight, sat back and said, “Wow,” like the rest of us. He’s snapped his fingers, pointed at the screen and said, “Right there. That’s where I’d beat him.”
“I just always saw what I could do to him,” Weidman said. “Not really weaknesses. I just always thought I had better wrestling. I thought I had the length and the athleticism to be aware on the feet and strike with my takedowns.”
Confidence can be a hard thing to gauge in professional sports. I was fortunate enough to cover Floyd Mayweather’s welterweight title fight last week against Robert Guerrero, and I heard plenty of positive reviews on Guerrero’s confidence.
When I was around Guerrero personally, though, there was something forced about it. It seemed a little too rah-rah. Guerrero never really said (calmly), “I’m ready.” It was always more of an excited, clichéd “we’re gonna beat him down” kind of thing.
Weidman’s confidence is different, tangible -- and that shouldn’t be surprising. This is the same guy who entered the Abu Dhabi World Championships in 2009 with just eight months of jiu-jitsu experience.
He faced world-renowned grappler Andre Galvao in the second round in Barcelona, Spain -- and he didn’t flinch.
“I refuse to believe in people’s hype,” Weidman said. “I go to Abu Dhabi and was matched up against Andre Galvao, and I went after him. I had a broken hand and I didn’t understand the rules, but it was a great experience.
“I was very confident I could beat Andre Galvao. He ended up beating me, but I did not beat myself in that match.”
Silva celebrated his 38th birthday in April. He’s shown no sign of slowing down, but if the Spider is in fact human, eventually he won’t be able to keep up athletically.
Throughout his career, though, and especially in recent years, he’s dominated opponents mentally. Weidman, who majored in psychology while he wrestled at Hofstra University, believes that everything Silva does in the cage has purpose.
“I think that’s the best trait he has,” Weidman said. “He’s earned a certain mystique about him where people fear him before they even get in the cage. He does a great job of making you feel like, ‘I’m that much better than you.’
“People say he’s being cocky and it’s bad for the sport. I look at it as he’s mentally breaking that guy. He’s making him think, ‘This guy is so relaxed he has his hands down.’ When you’re in the cage and you’re very structured and tense and the guy you’re in with is doing that, it can blow your mind.”
After getting to spend time with him, I’m pretty convinced Weidman’s mind is not easily blown.
That can always change in the course of a fight, but when Weidman says things like he wanted this title fight in Brazil so there would be no excuses when he won, I believe he’s being genuine.
Whether he’s able to pull it off we won’t know that until the fight. But I can tell you that on July 6, a middleweight contender is going to go after Silva with the firm belief in his mind it’s his fight to lose. You don’t always get that in a Silva fight.