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Analysis: Anderson Silva should grant Chris Weidman his rightful title shot

Weidman speaks to fans and media in Denver as he waits for news on next fight

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Chris Weidman celebrates after beating Mark Munoz in a UFC on Fuel 4 Mixed Martial Arts middleweight bout in San Jose, Calif., Wednesday, July 11, 2012. Weidman won in the second round.

DENVER — After demolishing Chael Sonnen for the middleweight championship at UFC 148, Anderson Silva immediately shot down the idea of a pound-for-pound super fight with light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

The 37-year old said he would rather stick to 185 pounds and continue to fight the division’s top contenders. It was a perfectly reasonable request from the UFC’s most prolific combatant of all-time.

But when a new challenger clearly emerged a week later, undefeated Chris Weidman, Silva had a surprising reaction. He went silent while his managers embarked on a wide-ranging smear campaign against Weidman, saying he was too inexperienced and altogether unworthy of fighting “The Spider.”

Jorge Guimaraes even told MMAFighting.com that the team had turned down a bout with Weidman and nothing could change their minds.

“I’m hoping that (Silva’s) the guy I think he is and he wants the biggest challenge and to take that challenge and defeat it,” Weidman said in a question-and-answer session at UFC 150. “And I think I’m the biggest challenge right now. I think his managers see, on paper, I’m a bad matchup for him. So his managers come out trying to downplay me, which is frustrating because I feel I deserve to be where I’m at.”

Someone needs to slip the managers word that just because one of Silva’s sponsors is Burger King, he doesn’t get to have it his way. Not completely, at least.

When the only two opponents who make sense in the near future are Jones and Weidman, Silva can’t refuse both. Silva’s team wants to convince fans that welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, a long-proposed foe, provides the best option.

Although Silva vs. St. Pierre would make for a great fight, it’s flawed to think it could happen anytime before late 2013. St. Pierre is recovering from ACL surgery with a fight against interim champion Carlos Condit already lined up for November at the earliest. And St. Pierre has stated numerous times he would want almost a year to bulk up if he ever faced the bigger Silva.

Instead of accepting the situation, Silva’s longtime manager Ed Soares is proposing matchups as outrageous as a Marilyn Manson music video. Soares told MMAjunkie.com that Silva was interested in a third fight with 37-year old former champion Rich Franklin.

Yes, the same Franklin who just had his first middleweight fight in four years and has gone 3-3 since 2009. Sports books would need to expand their betting boards to fit enough zeroes to accompany Silva’s price as a favorite against Franklin.

There’s only one proper venue for that bout — Soares’ imagination. Give it enough time and the Mind of Soares Arena may have a full card considering he already gave another absurd possibility his seal of approval.

Responding to a blog post from Nick Diaz’s manager, Soares said he thought Silva vs. Diaz was a good fight. This despite the fact that Diaz is suspended a year for testing positive for marijuana metabolites after an interim welterweight championship bout he lost to Condit.

Even UFC President Dana White couldn’t bite his tongue on that suggestion.

“In what (expletive) universe does that make sense,” White said last week at UFC on FOX 4.

This isn’t the first time the UFC has run into problems recently when attempting to book bouts for their Brazilian superstar. An emergency three-hour meeting and negotiation that delayed a press conference to announce UFC 148 were necessary to get Silva to fight Sonnen a second time, according to White.

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Anderson Silva says a prayer after defeating Chael Sonnen in their bout at UFC 148 Saturday, July 7, 2012 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

“He didn’t want to fight Chael,” White said last month. “He thought Chael was disrespectful and did not deserve a shot at the title at all.”

As the greatest fighter in the world, Silva has no reason to avoid any opponent. In all likelihood, his reasons for not wanting to fight Sonnen, and now Weidman, reflect his legitimate concerns.

But if perception is truly reality, Silva is trying to wiggle away from his toughest challenges at this point of his career. One fan told Weidman as much Friday and it drew a round of applause.

“I don’t want to be that guy who is saying, ‘he is ducking me’,” Weidman said. “I know it seems like he is, but I don’t want to be that guy. I have no problems with you guys saying it, but I can’t do it.”

Weidman was warm, engaging and humorous during the 45-minute chat at the Pepsi Center. If Silva’s handlers doubt the UFC’s ability to turn Weidman into a star, they must have paid no attention to the promotion over the last decade.

The UFC has marketed far less accessible fighters, including Silva himself. “The Spider” had one UFC bout, as opposed to Weidman’s five, when he first received a title shot in 2006 after knocking out Chris Leben.

“Who knew him at that point,” Weidman asked. “Was he a huge star? You have to take a shot and I hope the UFC takes a shot with me.”

Let’s hope Silva will. As he approaches 40, fans may only have a few more times to watch Silva’s brilliance inside the octagon.

If Silva wants to stay at middleweight, the next one needs to come against his largest threat. It needs to come against Weidman.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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