Chris Weidman is hopeful he'll return to the Octagon early next year but admits he doesn't know for sure because of a stubborn left thumb injury.
Weidman (14-3) picked up a much-needed submission win over Kelvin Gastelum in July, but has been sidelined since with a dislocated thumb. He underwent surgery on the injury in September.
The former UFC middleweight champion says he was initially told the procedure would only keep him out six weeks. That time frame has apparently grown, much to Weidman's frustration.
"My hand is going all right -- not great," Weidman told ESPN. "I'm not really sure how long it's going to be. I was with the UFC's physical therapist, and she was hoping maybe in two months I could be 100 percent. There's no telling. I guess it's a unique injury.
"Basically, they took the tendon out of my wrist to anchor my thumb into the socket because the ligament had torn. [The doctor] kind of did tell me, it's almost the equivalent of doing an ACL on a knee. I'm like, 'What? What happened to that six-week mark you were talking about?'"
Weidman, 33, has dealt with several significant injuries in his career, including a herniated disc in 2016. He acknowledges he'll have "aches and pains" later on, but said he's committed to coming back.
Perhaps one silver lining of Weidman's injury is that there is nowhere to really go in the middleweight division.
The belt switched hands at UFC 217 earlier this month, as Georges St-Pierre returned from a four-year layoff to defeat Michael Bisping via third-round submission. St-Pierre has said he is contractually obligated to defend the title against interim champion Robert Whittaker, but many (including Weidman) don't expect him to take that fight.
"You have 'GSP' possibly fighting Whittaker, but no one really believes that's going to happen -- even though [UFC president] Dana White is swearing up and down about it. There's just no certainty about who's going to be champion in the next year in the UFC.
"Who am I going to be able to take the belt from? I guarantee you it's not gonna be 'GSP.'"
When asked whom he'd put money on as St-Pierre's next opponent, Weidman guessed current welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
"Or if [the UFC] really sells out, Conor McGregor," he added.
The division is obviously not where Weidman would prefer it to be, but he says he won't count out the new champion. Even though Weidman doesn't believe he'll ever fight St-Pierre, he wouldn't call him an easy fight for someone like Whittaker.
"[St-Pierre] does find a way to outsmart people," Weidman said. "I'll never underestimate 'GSP.' He's proved time and time again how good he really is and as much as I might think, looking how the other guys in the middleweight division are bigger and stronger and have different things than him, I won't underestimate 'GSP.' He can do it all."