Timing is perfect for fight of Weidman's life

July, 4, 2013
7/04/13
2:51
PM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- The buzz surrounding Chris Weidman heading into Saturday night's middleweight title bout against champion Anderson Silva at UFC 162 comes as no surprise.

We've watched, sometimes in amazement, as he has risen to the top of the 185-pound contender list with high-class jiu-jitsu, above-average striking and top-level wrestling. Weidman is an offensive guru, but he's equally adept on defense.

No matter where the fight is contested or whatever position he finds himself in, Weidman is always at ease. He never comes unglued. At no time in his nine-fight professional mixed martial career has Weidman lost his poise.

You can chalk it up to extreme confidence, as Weidman has been the definition of it at every step of his journey to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas for Saturday's title fight.

But Weidman's confidence wasn't born in March when the title fight was officially announced. It began in 2008 when the fighter first started watching Silva compete.

That year, Silva successfully defended his middleweight title against Dan Henderson and Patrick Cote. In between, Silva took a brief vacation to light heavyweight where he knocked out James Irvin at 1:01 of the first round on July 19.

After watching each of those bouts, Weidman concluded that he could defeat Silva. It was only a matter of time.

Weidman had never trained in MMA or considered participating in the sport until he saw Silva perform in 2008. But Weidman knew that with hard work, dedication and proper training to go along with his natural athletic ability, intelligence and wrestling base he would one day unseat Silva as the UFC middleweight champion.

"If I didn't believe that I could beat [Silva], by watching him back then, I wouldn't have even gotten into this sport," Weidman told ESPN.com. "I envisioned fighting Anderson from day one. The only reason I started doing this was to be No. 1, and that's the case today. I'm excited that I got myself the opportunity to fight [Silva for a title] and to go out there and show everybody what I can do."

Every step in his mixed martial arts development -- his initial training session, his first pro fight against Reubem Lopes in February 2009 and his UFC debut against Alessio Sakara on March 3, 2011 -- prepared Weidman for victory Saturday night. The stars have lined up perfectly for him.

In a strange sort of way, it might appear that being UFC middleweight champion is his destiny. But just when it seemed the stars couldn't align any more perfectly, the unbeaten fighter received an additional dose of good fortune.

Weidman’s father, Charlie, will be in his corner for the first time ever as an amateur or professional. Weidman extended the offer on Father’s Day, and Charlie Weidman, with a huge smile on his face and tears in his eyes, accepted immediately.

"Having my dad out there brings another dynamic," Weidman said. "He's real spiritual. It's important for me to be spiritual, in the right place. He'll pray for me before I go out. And that's a huge part of me having an advantage going against Anderson Silva. [My father] has been driving me to wrestling camps and every match that I've had growing up, since second grade -- sitting in the stands. He's never been in my corner, even for wrestling. This is his first time.

[+] EnlargeChris Weidman
AP Photo/Jeff ChiuWith longtime coach Matt Serra unable to be in his corner Saturday, Chris Weidman will turn to the services of his father, Charlie.
"He's my biggest fan. This is a great thing for him too. It's like a lifetime dream"

A devout Christian, Charlie Weidman raised his children in the Lutheran Church. Chris Weidman has retained his strong Christian faith, though he now worships at a nondenominational church in his native Long Island, N.Y.

Should he become champion Saturday night, Weidman will rely on those Christian teachings to help him become a great role model. He believes that part of being a UFC titleholder is to lead by example.

"I want to be a humble champion," Weidman said. "I want to be a role model for kids. I want to give all the glory to God. There is a lot I want to do. Being the champion, you have a lot of responsibility to do good things. And I look forward to doing that."

The goodness that Charlie Weidman instilled in his son has proved to be unbreakable, and the elder Weidman's influence remains solid. It's why his inclusion in the corner was a no-brainer.

The addition of Charlie Weidman, however, comes on the heels of a big loss. Longtime coach Matt Serra has been on an emotional roller coaster throughout this training camp.

"I had blood clots," Serra said. "They found a blood clot in my lung and my biceps. I had to have surgery to remove my first rib. On top of all that, I ended up having my kid. All this was going on during [Weidman's] camp."

Serra's wife, Ann, gave birth to Sophia, the couple's third child, all girls, on June 8. Medical issues and his wife's pregnancy proved too much for the strong-willed Serra. He was unable to spend much time with Weidman during this camp.

While Serra wishes he could be on hand Saturday night to watch Weidman achieve his goal, he is comforted knowing that the timing is perfect for Charlie Weidman to make his corner debut.

"I feel very confident in Chris for this fight," Serra said. "He's got all the guys in his corner, Ray Longo for striking, John Danaher for the ground, jiu-jitsu, and I think it's nice that he got his father in there. It might be more important [having Charlie Weidman] than having me there right now. It will mean more for him, his spirit. It's a beautiful thing, having his father in the corner."

Throughout Weidman's pro career, it seems timing has always been on his side.

That's why Weidman is confident -- certain to be exact -- that Silva's time as UFC middleweight champion runs out Saturday night.

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