The best mixed martial artist ever to enter the Octagon is always willing to fight whomever Zuffa puts in front of him, said Jorge Guimaraes, Anderson Silva's representative and longtime friend.
However, Silva’s management team -- namely Guimaraes and Ed Soares -- have their own thoughts from time to time.
Just last summer, for instance, Guimaraes and Soares -- partners in Blackhouse, where Silva primarily trains -- thought Chris Weidman hadn't done enough to earn a spot challenging Silva. Their biggest concern, at least the one they were most vocal about, was that the fight wouldn’t appeal to fans because, you know, who was Weidman really? Some unbeaten prospect with fewer than 10 fights who made an ailing Mark Munoz look bad. Pfft. Big deal.
At this stage of Silva's illustrious career, if it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense -- and Blackhouse didn’t see Weidman as a moneymaker.
A year later, the situation remains largely unchanged. Yet it turns out that Silva has agreed to step into the cage with Weidman. Before returning to Los Angeles on Wednesday from New York, where he helped promote UFC’s partnership with Fox, the UFC middleweight champion verbally agreed to fight the American wrestler this summer. Weidman was the only choice Zuffa put in front of “The Spider,” which was the case last year as well. But that didn't mean he had to accept.
“Now I have the opportunity to seize my dream,” Weidman, 28, tweeted late Wednesday night.
So why give in to the strong grappler now when that proposal registered a clear-cut "no" in 2012?
Timing would seem to have a lot to do with it.
Blackhouse’s critique of Weidman as a challenger (he isn’t bankable, they said last year), came after the middleweight contender earned the best win of his career. That’s when it was proposed that he was next in line to take on Silva. Perhaps he couldn’t sell a pay-per-view, but he absolutely looked dangerous enough to upend the champion. After Silva said “no” last summer (opting instead to embarrass Stephan Bonnar), the UFC slotted Weidman into a Dec. 29 fight against Tim Boetsch. It never happened because Weidman tore a labrum in his shoulder while training.
Weidman -- 9-0 record, tall, big, athletic and gifted as a fighter -- was hobbled for the first time in the UFC. A young stud with a weak link.
If there was ever a proper time for Silva to meet Weidman in the cage, it seemed that that moment, as he recuperated from surgery, was as soon as possible. The first available date on UFC’s calendar was July 6.
Weidman is unquestionably talented, so much so that fans and media simply (probably smartly) expect him to make big strides with each fight camp. That’s not a presumptuous leap considering Weidman’s immense drive, talent and relative inexperience in MMA. Fresh off the shoulder injury, however, Weidman is a recuperating young buck, presumably nowhere near as good as he’ll be with a little more time to heal.
He hasn't fought since beating Munoz, "So why not catch him now?” was Blackhouse's thinking.
Of course, “The Spider” could have waited and pushed for a huge-money catch-weight contest against welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
But he hasn't. Instead, Silva chose to go after Weidman at the most uncertain time of the young challenger's career. Feel free to criticize Silva's decision, but tactically speaking there’s not a whole lot to quibble with. Silva realized that unless he retired soon he’d need to fight Weidman, so he decided to go ahead with it now because, on the surface at least, the advantage remains his.
At the age of 37, Silva’s reflexes and timing continue to be remarkable. There’s no guarantee, though, that those physical traits will stick with him. In fact, it’s assured they won’t.
So he made the smart play. Silva will return to face down a young lion who may not be mature enough (physically, yes, but in terms of experience and mental readiness, who can say for sure?). As an example, when they step in the cage, Weidman will have been out of action for almost a full year.
Those factors led to an easy decision. Silva was going to fight. He chose a guy who, by all rights, deserves to be in the cage with him.
But he did so plausibly contemplating that Weidman couldn’t be as good in July as he would be by the end of the year.
The UFC middleweight champion's decision to let Weidman challenge him comes off as a pre-emptive strike. A smart one.