TORRANCE, Calif. – Chris Weidman knew the question was coming: Does he think Anderson Silva is going to drop his hands and taunt him again?
It was the first question out of the mouths of reporters on the first day of a seven-date, two-country media tour promoting the rematch between Weidman, the UFC middleweight champion, and the longtime champion he dethroned in a memorable manner in July.
The way Weidman took the title – knocking Silva silly after the then-champion spent the better part of two rounds toying with the challenger – is part of the intrigue which promises to make UFC 168 in Las Vegas on Dec. 28 one of the biggest events in UFC history.
Since he's going to be asked about Silva's antics in the first fight from now until the duo meet again in the Octagon, Weidman knew to have a good answer ready.
"Sure, that's the way he fights," Weidman said. "If he doesn't, he doesn't. Either way, it doesn't really matter. I think the only way he wouldn't do that is if he was doing it and gets knocked out like that again. He'd have to deal with the backlash from the fans and stuff all over again. I think that's just part of the fight game and what he does and what makes him great."
The Weidman-Silva II media tour serves as the unofficial kickoff to what, on paper, appears to be the strongest run of consecutive events the UFC has put together over the 13 years the Fertitta brothers and Dana White have run the company.
UFC 168, which also features the women's bantamweight title fight between champion Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, is the finale of a stretch which includes UFC 166 on Oct. 19 in Houston, headlined by the Cain Velasquez-Junior dos Santos heavyweight title trilogy fight; UFC 167 on Nov. 16 in Las Vegas, the company's 20th anniversary card, which features welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks; and UFC on FOX 9 on Dec. 14 in Sacramento, Calif., a stacked top-to-bottom card with a main event of lightweight champion Anthony Pettis vs. Josh Thomson.
Not to mention the pair of memorable fights which preceded it: Pettis' title victory over Henderson at UFC 164 on Aug. 31 and the thrilling Jon Jones-Alexander Gustafsson fight at UFC 165 on Sept. 21.
"Everything lined up perfectly," White said. "People stayed healthy, we had Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis, sick fight, followed that up with Jones-Gustafsson, unbelievable fight, now we're doing into Cain Velasquez-Junior dos Santos and the list goes on and on. I'm excited, I love it and thank God everyone's staying healthy."
UFC 168, though, remains the crown jewel of the end-of-2013 schedule. Based on the buzz off Weidman's knockout heard around the world, which ended the longest title reign in UFC history at six years, nine months, White has gone big with his predictions. Laying on the hyperbole, White says that the Dec. 28 will be bigger than UFC 100 on July 21, 2009, the biggest event in company history, which drew an estimated 1.6 million pay-per-view buys.
"I think it's going to be the biggest fight we've ever done," White said. "Bigger than UFC 100. On every level. Tickets, pay-per-views, everything. You're going to see a motivated Anderson, but what makes this so much fun is, what Anderson are you going to see? How is this thing going to go? That's such a big part of the fun."
Weidman is apprised of the expectations his boss is placing on him. The undefeated Long Island native handles it with the same calm, cool demeanor that enabled him to believe he could end Silva's legendary title run to begin with.
"You know, as much distractions that are out there, my mindset is just to win this next fight, that's it," Weidman said. "My focus is there. Biggest fight ever? That's cool, yeah. But that doesn't change anything."
For his part, Silva is doing his best to make it clear he's only doing the week-long media tour, which started in this Los Angeles suburb, then moved on to Las Vegas, New York City, Bristol, Conn., and Miami, before wrapping up this weekend in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, because it's part of his job.
While the former champion was gracious with fans who lined up around the block to get into a Q&A session at the UFC Gym on day one, with reporters, it was a different story. A dismissive Silva greeted most questions with short answers, sighs, or rolled eyes.
Is it odd to be the challenger again? "No."
Will he approach Weidman differently this time? "I don't change nothing."
Okay, then. Silva's demeanor on Monday in Torrance repeated in a press conference at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas the following day. So clearly, the bulk of the promotional work will fall on the new champion.
And as of day one, at least, Weidman was taking it all with a smile.
"I gotta win this next fight. As the champ, you have to defend your belt and I'm excited to do that," Weidman said. "I'm not just sitting back happy to be a champ. I'm very motivated to go out there and prove I'm the best. ... People think the first fight was a fluke, so it motivates me. And it's fine. Anderson Silva deserves to have that kind of respect, he's accomplished a lot. He's done so much for the sport, he's done so much for UFC. This totally motivates me."
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- Anderson Silva
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