The atmosphere leading into the Anderson Silva/Chris Weidman fight over the weekend was very strange. The UFC advertised Weidman as the perfect fighter and had as many fighters as possible go on record and claim that he would beat Silva. Las Vegas took the warnings seriously because Silva was only a 3-to-1 favorite heading into the fight. Naturally, this led to most bettors trying to put money on Silva as fight time closed.
There’s a reason the casinos remain as luxurious as ever and it’s from the money from suckers who are dressed up as fight fans.
The casual UFC fan didn’t hate Weidman but they didn’t see him as having a chance of beating Silva, either. It led to a
rather unique & curious crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. If they weren’t busy doing the wave to entertain themselves, they were ready to wave to Anderson Silva and cheer him on. He was the only marquee name on the card and thus the media reacted accordingly. With UFC having six cards over two months, the roster is really stretched thin and you end up with more boxing-style audiences who pop for the big names and don’t show up for the prelims.
That’s not to say that fans disrespected Weidman by not being interested in the fight. They just didn’t believe the Zuffa hype machine.
And then Saturday happened. Dana White told the press that he expected this UFC event to draw 800,000 PPV buys, which is absolutely ridiculous. The gate for the show was $4.8 million with a little over 12,000 spectators. Not bad for a
relatively weak card in terms of star power. In contract, however, the Mayweather/Canelo gate of $18.6M basically has solidified Vegas as a boxing town again after boxing promoters like Bob Arum hinted that Zuffa had a strangle hold on the city. Funny how circumstances can change quickly in combat sports.
Before the fight on Saturday night, “a big announcement” was being teased for the post-fight press conference. Somewhere, somehow, I don’t think UFC expected the big announcement involving the proclamation of Chris Weidman as the new Middleweight champion for the company. It’s one thing to hype a guy and try to get the public to take him as seriously as possible as a fighter. It’s an entirely different story when the guy actually pulls it off and you’re left to deal with the aftermath.
As Jordan Breen of Sherdog put it after the fight, all hell broke loose.
“Anderson Silva still, tomorrow morning, going to be seen in the minds of most as the greatest Mixed Martial Arts fighter ever. And that’s fair. Better part of 7 years, he’s the best fighter Mixed Martial Arts had. He became the first truly great Middleweight the sport had, showed us new spectacular ways of combat that we couldn’t have really imagined in the Octagon prior to his arrival. One of the most thrilling MMA stars we’ve ever got to enjoy inside the UFC or any major big-ticket MMA organization. Someone who will be mythologized forever and rightly so. But eventually whether people expect it or not, the torch gets passed. And in this particular case, I’m not sure how willing it was on Anderson Silva’s part but Chris Weidman, someone who was tabbed almost immediately as perhaps, maybe, someday “the guy” who could lead the Middleweight division post-Anderson Silva. He wasn’t waiting, he wasn’t waiting for the future. Tonight in Las Vegas, Chris Weidman takes the torch, takes the UFC Middleweight crown, topples Anderson Silva off the pound-for-pound heap and installs himself as the Middleweight ruler of the world. Chris Weidman… Chris Weidman. With Matt Serra & Ray Longo in corner. Somehow, I feel like this pound-for-pound king type upset might have a different trajectory than Mr. Serra’s had when he knocked out Georges St. Pierre in Houston many years ago.”
The post-fight reaction was nuclear. Maybe not a majority, but a significant minority of the fan base actually thought that Anderson Silva threw the fight against Chris Weidman. By dancing & clowning around, there was somehow a scheme in play where Anderson had a plan to lose the belt so that he could set up a rematch with Weidman and make even more money. Or, at least drop the belt to Weidman so that he could fight Roy Jones Jr. in a boxing match. The conspiracies starts flourishing and expanding. Dana White, who was shell-shocked, had no patience for “the fix was in!” comments from the public. Anderson’s hardcore fans started sounding like Fedor fans coming up with reasons as to why their legendary man lost his magic touch.
All Dana could do was sell the prospects of a rematch between Anderson and Weidman for Super Bowl 2014 weekend.
As for how the mainstream sports media covered what happened at UFC 162, there really wasn’t much coverage at all. ESPN decided not to air any clips of the humiliating spectacle and barely mentioned the loss happening at all (outside of items on the news ticker at the bottom of the television screen). And for those media outlets that did cover what took place, virtually most of the focus was on Silva’s behavior and on Silva’s future. Chris Weidman was largely portrayed as a spectator, as a guy who got an opening and did what any professional should do when a man leaves himself wide open to get knocked out in the first place.
The whole thing is an odd spectacle.
Dana White lamented that any proposed Superfights on the table involving Anderson Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre or Anderson Silva vs. Jon Jones have now been shelved. A whole lot of money was just lost and now UFC’s options are limited. Jon Jones took to Twitter and expressed his bitter disappointment.
The UFC likes to say that their product is As Real As It Gets. Well, be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.