Winning belt is only part of Weidman’s goal

July, 7, 2013
7/07/13
3:07
AM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- It’s commonly said that styles make fights. Chris Weidman has relied on the mantra for more than two years to convince anyone who’d listen that he possessed the style of fighting to unseat middleweight champion Anderson Silva.

And the more Weidman spoke of his skills, the more convincing he sounded.

But it’s one thing to talk the talk, another to walk the walk. Weidman didn’t just walk, he ran away from the Octagon on Saturday night as UFC middleweight champion.

The goal, however, isn’t close to being fulfilled. Lifting the belt from Silva is only part of Weidman’s goal. Weidman dares to be great.

And Weidman is the first to say, based on his performance inside MGM Grand Garden Arena at UFC 162, he is far from greatness.

“It’s crazy,” Weidman told ESPN.com. “I would think that at this point, I could sit back and relax. But instantly I’m hungry. I have to get better.

“I feel I didn’t look my best. So, I’m excited about going out there and to hold on to this belt for as long as I possibly can.”

It’s this attitude that gives Weidman a chance to achieve his ultimate goal. He isn’t satisfied with being the first man to defeat Silva in UFC competition.

When Weidman spoke of knowing he would defeat Silva, it wasn’t simply because of the favorable style matchup. Weidman believes he is the overall better fighter.

But anything short of successfully defending the middleweight belt for many years will be deemed a failure in his eyes. And Weidman has the skills to achieve his long-term goal.

His wrestling is second to none. His jujitsu is of the highest quality. And his striking game is much better than average. But more than anything, Weidman is improving in every one of these areas.

The next time he steps in the cage, when his title is put on the line, Weidman will be a better mixed martial artist than the one fans witnessed Saturday night. His best isn’t close to being realized.

And that’s why a rematch with Silva will be more intriguing. Silva has not been on the losing end of a fight in more than seven years -- and that setback was due to an illegal kick. Take that loss to Yushin Okamai in January 2006 out of the equation and you have to go back to 2004 to find his last true defeat.

It’s been a very long time since Silva has tasted defeat. He’d never suffered a loss in UFC -- until Saturday night.

So it’s wise to take his talk, inside the cage immediately after the loss, of not wanting a rematch with Weidman with a grain of salt. Besides, he was softening his stance minutes later.

“First of all, we need to respect Chris Weidman,” Silva said during the UFC 162 postfight news conference. “He’s the champion; he won the fight. But right now I’m just thinking of going home. I want to be with my kids and take some time off.

“And maybe in three to four months I will think about what I am going to do. But right now I can’t really think about that [rematch]. I just want to take some time off and be alone to think about everything.

“There was a lot of pressure in defending this title. I’ve defended it for a long time, so I just need some time to myself.”

Though he came up short Saturday night, the 38-year-old Silva showed no sign of slowing down. He was simply beaten by the better fighter – on this night at least.

Silva is still a great fighter who pulled out just about every trick in his MMA bag; Weidman just didn’t bite. If a rematch with Weidman is made, expect Silva to be even better.

But expect the same from the new UFC middleweight champion.

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