Article by Dave Walsh
Simply put, to support Chris Weidman is to actively wish for the UFC to fall upon hard[er] times.
There has been a growing movement among MMA fans and pundits over the last few weeks to pick Chris Weidman as the winner in his upcoming UFC Middleweight Championship bout against Anderson Silva. Maybe some people are seeing something in Weidman that myself and many others don’t, or maybe some people just want to be able to say that they were able to call the downfall of one of the greatest fighters in history. Anderson Silva has looked unstoppable for the last few years and being “the guy” who called Anderson losing the title would be something neat to brag about on the internet, that is for sure.
Anderson Silva has, almost without real effort, disposed of some of the best that we’ve ever seen in the UFC’s Middleweight division, with the lone fight showing chinks in his armor being against Chael Sonnen the first time, which he was able to quickly remedy in the second bout by stuffing everything that Chael had to offer him and finishing him off early. To say that Anderson Silva has a price on his head is an understatement, as he is the most dominant champion that we might have ever seen in MMA to date, with his title reign lasting seven years now, without any doubts at all.
So how exactly is rooting for Chris Weidman bad for business? Simple, Chris Weidman is a black hole when it comes to charisma and marketability, two things that are important in the world of MMA, but many tend to ignore as it is a “sport.” While the UFC is indeed a sports league, it is hard to ignore that PPVs, tickets and merchandise have all relied upon strong personalities that fans can get behind more than just raw talent. The perfect UFC fighter is a mix of personality and skill, it always has been and always will be.
In the UFC that raw skill and ability is what makes for a good fighter, but being able to market the fighter’s personality helps immensely to make them a legitimate star. Right now the UFC is facing a down period because, to put it bluntly, they have very few fighters who have both the in-ring ability and the charisma to be bigger stars. Look at their roster of champions right now and how they stack up.
Heavyweight: Cain Velasquez. Cain is a talented fighter who was primed to be the UFC’s ace for pulling in the Latino market as well as impressing fans. Then Junior Dos Santos flattened him on network television and the dream was dead. He might be the champion again, but the aura is gone and the UFC doesn’t seem to know what to do with him.
Light Heavyweight: Jon Jones. Dear god, Jon Jones. Jon Jones is raw talent who was able to pull it all together to take over a division with no end in sight for it. He was also able to pull in some pretty sweet sponsorship deals for himself, but with that being said, at times he is more of a liability than an asset for the UFC. Chuck Liddell was the last long-reigning Light Heavyweight who was able to put that title on the map and make it the UFC’s premier title, but since then it has been hot-potatoed until it reached Jones and now, well, who knows. Jones when he opens his mouth tends to shoot himself in the foot and makes some pretty boneheaded decisions that we’d persecute more famous athletes for. He has a lot of growing up to do and not a lot of time to do it.
Middleweight: Anderson Silva. Anderson Silva is uber-talented, he knows just how good he is and he has an aura around him of being invincible. He has made some of the best fighters in the world look like amateurs and all while showing off in the ring. What he lacks in refusing to speak English and do much press in the US he makes up for every time that he steps into the ring and puts on a show. Love him or hate him you know him and you want to watch him.
Welterweight: George St. Pierre. GSP is a talented guy who is afraid of getting hit after the Serra fight, so he fights “smart,” which translates to fighting boring to many fans. It doesn’t matter how skilled he is, you know what to expect from his fights and he hasn’t slipped up enough to where you are watching to see him get knocked out yet, you just know to expect five rounds of takedowns and jabs. Women tends to love him, as do Canadians, but most men aren’t into the GSP thing.
Lightweight: Benson Henderson. Oh Benson, the king of what was one of the most stable divisions in the world before falling into chaos. Benson is a great fighter to watch, highly-skilled and seems like kind of a nice, nerdy guy. The problem always comes with when he opens his mouth and it’s clear that he’s not just a nerd, but he’s the kind of nerd who tries to convert you to his beliefs. He’ll never have that confidence in himself or any real “swagger” to be a major player.
Featherweight: Jose Aldo. Jose Aldo is incredible talented and fun to watch fight. He also has this child-like innocence to him that makes him come off like a really nice guy. Even with all of that going on for him, the fact that he’s so small and the UFC hasn’t done a great job of building up those lighter divisions is holding him back.
Bantamweight: Dominick Cruz/Renan Barao. Cruz is a skilled but unlikeable fighter who doesn’t seem to push enough. Barao is still pretty unknown and his injury while Interim Champion isn’t doing him any favors.
Flyweight: Demetrious Johnson. McCall was easily the more marketable fighter of the two when they met, but Johnson won the second time before going on to winning the Flyweight title. He just hasn’t had time to strut his stuff yet.
Out of all of these fighters listed, only Anderson Silva really feels like a real star that has the right mix, while the rest all seem interchangeable, like if someone beat them and took their spot that they’d just fit right in. There are no Brock Lesnars anymore, or Chuck Liddells or Randy Coutures or BJ Penns. The UFC has become homogenous and it has suffered for that over the years, stagnating as opposed to growing. Anderson Silva is the last real holdout left for the UFC, the last guy with that right mix. The UFC thought that Chael Sonnen could be that guy, he was able to sell fights, but he didn’t have the skills to pull it all together before he fizzled out.
Chris Weidman is not that guy. Chris Weidman’s fighting style is fine and he has given some decent interviews out in the buildup to his fight with Anderson Silva, but simply stated, there is nothing special about Chris Weidman, nothing that makes him stick out against the nameless and faceless of the UFC’s elite right now. The UFC should see this as a problem, as should everyone who cares about the UFC.
Do you really want a nameless, faceless champion over a myth? How many people remember Paris for shooting Achilles as compared to remembering that Achilles was a heroic warrior who was shot in ankle, which ended his run? Not many.