Chris Weidman felt Vitor Belfort’s “meter start dropping” in round one. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
When Vitor Belfort unleashed one of his patented flurries in the first round of the UFC 187 co-main event, Chris Weidman wasn’t worried.
The reigning middleweight champion knew that if he could weather the storm, momentum would there for the taking.
“It felt like a video game when you’re going against the boss and his meter just starts dropping and dropping,” Weidman said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “That’s what I was thinking. Every punch he threw, I’m like ‘You’re meter’s dropping and I’m gonna keep moving forward.’ I was confident.”
Weidman couldn’t have been more correct. Once Belfort failed on his initial burst, he faded badly. From there, Weidman took his foe down, moved to full mount and bounced Belfort’s head off the canvas with a vicious volley of elbows, punches and hammerfists. The contest ended just 2:39 after it began, with “The Phenom” wilting under the champion’s unyielding pressure.
In the immediate aftermath, Weidman urged any remaining doubters to “join the team.” Despite owning victories over Anderson Silva (twice) and Lyoto Machida heading into Saturday’s title fight, the “All-American” still felt slighted in many regards.
“I’m for real. I feel like after the Machida fight there was a good group of people that started following and were believers, but then with the time off the haters just grew stronger and stronger, so I had to come in here and do my thing again,” Weidman said.
Weidman won’t have too much time to rest on his laurels. Looming on the horizon are a pair of formidable challengers, Luke Rockhold and Ronaldo Souza. The two former Strikeforce champions have been gathering steam in the middleweight division in recent months, but Weidman believes Rockhold’s last outing – a second-round submission of Lyoto Machida at UFC on Fox 15 – makes him the leader in the clubhouse for the No. 1 contender’s spot.
“Jacare would be an amazing competition. I know Rockhold’s here,” Weidman said. “I’m not the matchmaker, but I feel like Rockhold put on a better last performance than Jacare just because of the guy he fought.”
No matter the opponent, Weidman has a specific venue in mind for his next title defense. The UFC continues to push for the legalization of mixed martial arts in New York, and has, perhaps optimistically, already reserved a December date for Madison Square Garden.
If that dream does finally come to fruition, Weidman has a pretty strong suggestion for the promotion’s first headliner in the Empire State.
“I’m not missing the Madison Square Garden fight, that’s for sure. That’s all I really care about,” he said. “You can ask me about ‘Jacare’ or Rockhold, honestly it doesn’t matter. I want to fight either one of them, but in Madison square Garden. As long as I’m in that venue, I’m a happy man. That’s a dream. That’s really the focus. I’m gonna talk to the UFC, find out what the deal is with that and go from there.”